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Diabetes Linked to 65% Increased Risk of Alzheimer's

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"We found that diabetes was related to decline in some cognitive systems but not in others."

Findings from a new study indicate that patients with diabetes mellitus are 65 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than are people without diabetes.

The results support several recent reports that have linked the two diseases. In contrast, in some earlier studies, researchers were unable to show an association.

According to lead author Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis, from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, what sets the current study apart from its predecessors is its forward-looking design and the rigorous method of assessing mental, or cognitive, function.

Arvanitakis said that: "Surprisingly few...studies have examined the relationship of diabetes to Alzheimer's disease." Also, unlike previous studies, a detailed battery of neuropsychological tests was used to examine changes in five cognitive abilities, she added.

As reported in the Archives of Neurology, the researchers assessed the outcomes of 824 older Catholic nuns, priests, and brothers who participated in the Religious Orders Study. All of the subjects were Alzheimer's-free and 127 had diabetes mellitus at the start of the study.

During an average follow-up period of 5.5 years, 151 subjects developed Alzheimer's disease, the authors note. As noted, the presence of diabetes raised the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 65 percent.

In terms of cognitive abilities, only a decline in perceptual speed was associated with diabetes. "This was an interesting finding--it helps us understand some subtle issues that may help us shed light on the mechanisms" linking diabetes with Alzheimer's disease, Arvanitakis said.

Further answers may come with additional follow-up of the present cohort, she said. In addition, "all participants in the Religious Orders Study have agreed to brain donation at the time of death, which will allow us" to gain deeper insight into the association.

Source: Diabetes In

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