Research Suggest a Diabetes-Alzheimer's Link

Denise Grady of The New York Times reports new studies suggest diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Grady this is a daunting prospect:
The connection raises an ominous prospect: that increases in diabetes, a major concern in the United States and worldwide, may worsen the rising toll from Alzheimer’s. The findings also add dementia to the cloud of threats that already hang over people with diabetes, including heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and amputations.
Grady explains there are a number of ways diabetes detrimentally affects brain function:
Not everyone with diabetes gets Alzheimer’s, and not all Alzheimer’s patients are diabetic. But in the past decade, several large studies have found that compared with healthy people of the same age and sex, those with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The reason is not known, but researchers initially suspected that cardiovascular problems caused by diabetes might contribute to dementia by blocking blood flow to the brain or causing strokes.

More recently, though, scientists have begun to think that the diseases are connected in other ways as well. In both, destructive deposits of amyloid, a type of protein, build up: in the brain in Alzheimer’s, in the pancreas in Type 2 diabetes.

People with Type 2 often have a condition called insulin resistance, in which their cells cannot properly use insulin, the hormone needed to help glucose leave the blood and enter cells that need it. To compensate, the pancreas makes extra insulin, which can reach high levels in the blood. Too much insulin may lead to inflammation, which can contribute to damage in the brain.

In addition, abnormalities in glucose metabolism and insulin levels in the brain itself may be harmful. Some research has found that too much insulin in the brain can contribute to amyloid buildup. Researchers have even suggested that Alzheimer’s disease may actually be “Type 3 diabetes,” a form of the disease affecting the nervous system.
Dr. Rachel A. Whitmer of the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California believes this link does not bode well for our future:
“With the whole diabetes epidemic we’re seeing much more Type 2, so are we going to see even more Alzheimer’s than we thought we would see? If we continue in this direction, it’s a little bit frightening.”
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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Linda - July 17, 2006 9:15 PM

Oh, wow, this is big. Thanks for posting this. I have two members of my immediate family who have developed diabetes as adults -- my father and my sister. I believe they are diet related; there is no history of it, otherwise.
I have noted alzheimers-like symptoms in my father, but he takes it as a joke. I hadn't thought it may be related to his diabetes, but rather his disengagement from intellectual stimuli.

george - October 26, 2007 6:13 PM is a new service that will help both diabetics and alzheimer's.

anne lane - March 12, 2008 3:15 PM

My father has Alxheimers but not diabetes. But once he started taking multivitamin mineral supplements he noticeably improved, remembered short term better, recognised better.

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