How Type 2 Diabetes is Like Alzheimer’s Disease
At first it seems like an unlikely relationship: how could type 2 diabetes be associated with Alzheimer’s disease? Scientists at Albany University have shed light on this curious connection, and their findings add important fuel to the growing accumulation of research on the topic.
In fact, the new study’s results have prompted the lead researcher, Ewan McNay, to state that people with type 2 diabetes “really do have low-level Alzheimer’s.” What does this mean for people with diabetes?
Alzheimer’s disease and insulin
Insulin is the hormone that assists the passage of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the liver for storage or into cells for energy or storage. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to produce enough insulin or to effectively use what it can produce.
A significant part of the development of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which is the body’s inability to properly utilize insulin to transform sugar to energy. The consumption of high-carbohydrate foods causes the pancreas to make massive amounts of insulin to help handle all the sugar.
Eventually the pancreas cannot keep up the pace while the body’s cells become insulin resistant. The excess insulin is left to circulate in the body where it can eventually cause type 2 diabetes as well as other conditions, and one of them may be Alzheimer’s disease. Why?
The Albany University scientists suggest that the excess insulin reaches the brain and interferes with the natural breakdown of amyloid plaques, the substances that are believed to have a major role in the development of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. These findings, which are based on rat studies, were presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego recently and are preliminary.
According to McNay, about 70 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease, a percentage that is significantly higher than the general population. McNay warns that people who have type 2 diabetes need to do more than watch their diet and weight; they also need to consider that the disease is a path to cognitive decline.
Proper dietary management and exercise can help maintain reasonable insulin levels in type 2 diabetes. If insulin levels are not maintained, however, the brain is unable to process enough glucose (and the brain needs lots of sugar to thrive), which in turn causes communication problems between neurons and thus cognitive problems.
Numerous previous studies have indicated that type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease have a relationship. One example was reported by Emaxhealth writer Denise Reynolds, RD, who explained how type 2 diabetes potentially could be known as type 3 diabetes.
What you can do
If you have type 2 diabetes, the first thing you should do is become proactive and review your diabetes status with your healthcare provider. How well are you managing your diabetes? What is your hemoglobin A1c? How is your weight?
Then formulate an action plan that will help you achieve your goal of optimal management of your diabetes. This may include a combination of dietary changes, new exercise ideas, joining a support group, trying natural supplements that can reduce your need for medications and/or help control glucose levels, and staying abreast of the latest developments in type 2 diabetes care. The more actions you take the better!
Although type 2 diabetes may be like Alzheimer’s disease, it does not mean one will follow the other automatically. You can take steps starting right now to optimize your management of type 2 diabetes and be the healthiest you can be in mind and body.