Insulin resistance has been linked with higher risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Our brains feed on sugar or glucose for good functioning. In patients that are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and who thus present insulin resistance, it has been found that this symptom affects the way in which the brain uses glucose precisely in the areas that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The participants in the study were 61 years old on average. The study was conducted on 150 U.S. citizens. Following memory tests aimed at correctly identifying memory function loss typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers found that insulin resistance and high blood sugar were linked to lower performance.
“The findings are interesting because people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, but we are only now learning why they may be at increased risk,”
explained Barbara Bendlin, the lead author of the research paper, as well as assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In light of these findings, it is hoped that finding the means to tackle insulin resistance could also lead to the decrease of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
As insulin resistance is a marker of diabetes and prediabetes as well as obesity, a poor diet and typically a not active lifestyle, researchers argue that dealing with these issues through healthier lifestyle choices could be one way to go about it. Yet, medical research is necessary to also develop drug therapies that can efficiently tackle insulin resistance.
According to CDC reports, 29.1 million U.S. citizens are suffering from diabetes. Another 50 percent of U.S. citizens over the age of 64 are diagnosed yearly with prediabetes.
The study is another building stone for understanding and lowering the risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease known as Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, it does not stand as a definitve conclusion that links Alzheimer’s with insulin resistance.
Not all patients found to have insulin resistance will necessarily develop Alzheimer’s at a later stage in life. Instead, the findings indicate that mental functioning could be affected by insulin resistance in some patients.
This finding is supported with evidence drawn from the analysis of the PET brain scans that were mandatory for all 150 participants in the study. They were also tested for memory function loss and insulin resistance.
At the time of the study, none of the participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, albeit 40 percent having the gene mutation typical for increased risk of the disease, and two thirds being known to have a family history of Alzheimer’s.
Overall, insulin resistance affected the glucose metabolism in the left medial temporal lobe of some patients, which was clearly linked to lower performance in the memory test and the PET scans.
The study features in the JAMA Neurology Journal.
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