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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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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; g 2 = 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. (C) 2018 Published by Elsevier B.V.

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


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


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