Sunday, December 12, 2010

Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that occurs when nerve cells in the brain die and often results in the following:
  • impaired memory, thinking, and behavior
  • confusion
  • restlessness
  • personality and behavior changes
  • impaired judgment
  • impaired communication
  • inability to follow directions
  • language deterioration
  • impaired thought processes that involve visual and spatial awareness
  • emotional apathy

Plaque deposits between the nerves in the brain (neuritic plaques) and tangles are thought by many to be the two main causes of the destruction of brain tissue seen in Alzheimer's disease. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up between the nerves in the brain (neuritic plaques). Tangles, twisted fibers of another protein called tau, form inside brain cells.

Though most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, those with Alzheimer's tend to develop far more. The plaques and tangles tend to form in a predictable pattern, beginning in areas important in learning and memory and then spreading to other regions.

New research found that people with the highest levels of fasting insulin had nearly six times the odds of having plaque deposits, compared to people with the lowest levels of fasting insulin.

Researchers at Kyushu University, Japan studied specimens of brain from a series of 135 autopsies of residents of the town of Hisayama in Fukuoka prefecture (74 men and 61 women) performed between 1998 and 2003. Those involved had been tested a decade earlier while they were living. The tests included an oral 2-hour glucose tolerance test, fasting blood sugar, and insulin levels. In addition, researchers measured insulin resistance using a test called homeostasis assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).

The data were also adjusted to control for age, sex, blood pressure, cholesterol, body-mass index, smoking, exercise and cerebrovascular disease.

They found no association between diabetes risk factors and the development of tangles. However, higher levels of blood sugar two hours after eating, high fasting insulin levels and an elevated HOMA-IR score were associated with an increased risk of developing plaques.

ApoE4 is a gene long implicated in Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that the coexistence of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and ApoE4 gene increased the risk for NP formation

More studies are needed to figure out precisely how the diabetes and Azlheimer’s disease are connected.

But preventing or controlling diabetes is good for all kinds of reasons, and also because it might contribute to your risk of Alzheimer's disease. Exercise will not only increase blood flow to the brain, it will also increase insulin responsiveness throughout the body.

Journal Reference

Matsuzaki T, Sasaki K, Tanizaki Y, Hata J, Fujimi K, Matsui Y, Sekita A, Suzuki SO, Kanba S, Kiyohara Y, Iwaki T. Insulin resistance is associated with the pathology of Alzheimer disease: the Hisayama study. Neurology. 2010 Aug 31;75(9):764-70.

Picture Credit

Too young to know Woodstock, Aug ’69 CLICK HERE to watch

CLICK HERE for our earlier reports on Alzheimer’s Disease

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