Background and Aims - Older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) exhibit accelerated decline in some domains of cognition including verbal episodic memory. Few studies have investigated the influence of DM2 status in older adults on recognition memory for more complex stimuli such as faces. In the present study we sought to compare recognition memory performance for words, objects and faces under conditions of relatively low and high cognitive load. Methods - Healthy older adults with good glucoregulatory control (n = 13) and older adults with DM2 (n = 24) were administered recognition memory tasks in which stimuli (faces, objects and words) were presented under conditions of either i) low (stimulus presented without a background pattern) or ii) high (stimulus presented against a background pattern) cognitive load. Results - In a subsequent recognition phase, the DM2 group recognized fewer faces than healthy controls. Further, the DM2 group exhibited word recognition deficits in the low cognitive load condition. Conclusions - The recognition memory impairment observed in patients with DM2 has clear implications for day-to-day functioning. Although these deficits were not amplified under conditions of increased cognitive load, the present study emphasizes that recognition memory impairment for both words and more complex stimuli such as face are a feature of DM2 in older adults.