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Diabetes and obesity are the biggest health problems in today’s world. And now, scientists have found evidence that Alzheimer’s disease may be just another form of diabetes- what they call as brain diabetes. Read on to find out the implications of this.

Scientists are increasingly finding evidence of diabetic changes in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. There are signs of insulin resistance, which are an early indicator of diabetes. In fact, Dr. Suzanne DeLaMonte a neuro-pathologist from the Brown Medical School found, during autopsy, signs of insulin resistance in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease way back in 1995.

She was the first person to coin the term diabetes type 3. According to her, people with diabetes are increasingly prone to develop cognitive impairment and dementia because of insulin resistance in the brain. Both these features are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

More and more researches in the recent past have found an association between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence of both the diseases has shown a steady increase and in both the diseases, the age of onset of symptoms has been gradually decreasing.

Experts predict that by 2030, the number of patients suffering from dementia would double and reach 65.7 million. By 2050, the numbers would reach an epidemic proportion of a whopping 115.4 million.

The increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in patients of type 2 diabetes and obesity can be attributed to chronic hyperglycemia, and peripheral insulin resistance.  Due to a persistent state of oxidative stress, there is an increased deposition of advanced glycation end products, and an increase in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines leading to cerebral micro-vascular disease.

The scientists have tried to treat Alzheimer’s disease with rosiglitazone (Avandia), a drug used in the treatment of diabetes, but the results have been mixed. Researchers have postulated that by the time the symptoms of dementia appear, irreversible damage has been done to the brain cells due to increased insulin resistance.

As diabetes is usually associated with the increased intake of calories, one can infer that watching your calories would help in preventing both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. It is the excess fat in the body which increases the insulin resistance. 

People who eat a healthy diet can modify their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

This has been proven by a number of studies done on people who consume fish regularly, or take a diet high on fruits and vegetables and low on alcohol, or those who adhere to a Mediterranean style diet.

We should also try to limit the intake of nitrates in our diet, according to Dr. DeLaMonte. Nitrates are found in cured meats like salamis and hot dogs and have been associated with neuronal changes. Upon heating, nitrates get converted into nitrosamines, compounds which impair the interaction of brain cells with insulin.

Apart from taking care of your diet, another important aspect that should be taken care of is your physical health. And exercise plays an important role in maintaining your health.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Is Alzheimer's Disease the New Diabetes?” by Glen Matten, published in the September 17, 2012 issue of Huffington Post, accessed on November 26, 2012.
  • “Alzheimer's disease is type 3 diabetes-evidence reviewed”, by de la Monte SM, et al, published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Diabetes, Science and Technology, accessed on November 26, 2012.
  • “Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease--is this type 3 diabetes?” by Steen E, et al, published in the February 2005 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, accessed on November 26, 2012.
  • Photo courtesy of argonne on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/argonne/4014500452
  • Photo courtesy of mtsofan on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/6581412387