Possible Links Between Alzheimer’s and Diabetes

Both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are more prevalent with advanced age, and many possible links between the two may exist. Most notably, results of lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy and excessive food intake, may increase the risk of both conditions, but more specific links appear to exist as well. These connections were explored in a recent meta-analysis of 14 previous studies. Numerous past studies have suggested an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a prevalent form of dementia, in elderly diabetic patients, and vice verse. Impaired glucose metabolism, oxidative stress, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and “altered” insulin-signaling pathways, have all been suggested as reasons for this connection, and were all investigated in the current study. While many technical chemical connections were investigated in past studies, such as hyperinsulinemia linking obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, some more general conclusions were also drawn in the current study. One general conclusion was that the continued increase of global obesity may be responsible for both rising diabetes and Alzheimer’s incidence. This was based on past studies done of mice being fed high fat diets, with both diabetes and Alzheimer’s becoming more prevalent in the mice. A more specific finding from past research was that a type of lipid molecule, ceramides, may both cause insulin resistance and neuro-degeneration. Leptin deficiency, commonly associated with Alzheimer’s patients, was also observed to be more common in diabetes patients, making another possible link. Increased levels of oxidative stress were also observed in both conditions, with rising levels being directly related to disease progression. Oxidative stress levels appeared closely tied to vascular dysfunction, inflammation, and glucose metabolism, in both Alzheimer’s and diabetes patients. The hope of the current meta-analysis is that links between these two prevalent conditions will lead to common forms of treatment, such as raising leptin levels, or battling oxidative stress with antioxidants, or other more advanced treatments. Many of the above mentioned conditions are linked, and many are a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, so more than anything, this study suggests that healthy nutrition could help prevent two potentially fatal conditions later in life. Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Engelen, Astrid. Nawroth, Peter. Bierhous, Angelika. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease news release. May 2009.