Does working memory training improve dietary self-care in type 2 diabetes mellitus? Results of a double blind randomised controlled trial

Victoria Whitelock, Arie Nouwen, Katrijn Houben, Olga van den Akker, Miranda Rosenthal, Suzanne Higgs

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AIMS: Controlling food intake despite adequate knowledge remains a struggle for many people with type 2 diabetes. The present study investigated whether working memory training can reduce food intake and improve glycaemic control. It also examined training effects on cognition, food cravings, and dietary self-efficacy and self-care.

METHODS: In a double-blind multicentre parallel-group randomised controlled trial, adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus were randomly allocated to receive 25 sessions of either active (n = 45) or control (n = 36) working memory training. Assessments at baseline, post-training and 3-month follow-up measured cognition, food intake (primary outcomes), glycaemic control (HbA1c) and cholesterol (secondary outcomes). Semi-structured interviews assessed participants' experiences of the training.

RESULTS: Intention-to-treat ANOVAs (N = 81) showed improved non-trained updating ability in active compared to control training from pre-test (active M = 34.37, control M = 32.79) to post-test (active M = 31.35, control M = 33.53) and follow-up (active M = 31.81, control M = 32.65; η2 = 0.05). There were no overall effects of training on other measures of cognition, food intake, HbA1c, cholesterol, food cravings and dietary self-efficacy and self-care. In post-hoc analyses, those high in dietary restraint in the active training group showed a greater reduction in fat intake pre to post-test compared to controls. Interviews revealed issues around acceptability and performance of the training.

CONCLUSIONS: Transfer of working memory training effects to non-trained behaviour were limited, but do suggest that training may reduce fat intake in those who are already motivated to do so. Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN22806944.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-214
Number of pages11
JournalDiabetes Research and Clinical Practice
Early online date11 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Working memory training
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Food intake
  • Self-control
  • Dietary restraint
  • Dietary self-care


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