Medical researchers are divided on the causes and nature of Alzheimer’s disease. Now a new look at the neurological condition is linking it to diet as well as other lifestyle factors.
It is widely accepted that people with type 2 diabetes, or people who are obese and have trouble efficiently using insulin and so are prone to diabetes, are at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well. Furthermore, Alzheimer patients show significant drops in insulin levels in the early stages of the disease, and it keeps falling. The damage diabetes does to blood vessels in the brain is one cause of a separate condition called vascular dementia; Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia seem to reinforce and feed off of one another.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common variety of that condition. It is caused by an excess of blood glucose due to cells not properly using insulin. By contrast, type 1 diabetes is a congenital autoimmune condition in which the body has an immune reaction to the islets of Langerhans, the part of the pancreas where insulin is produced, which leads to an insulin deficiency. Another type of diabetes, which occurs in pregnant women, is called gestational diabetes, a result of pregnancy hormones interfering with the ordinary functions of insulin.
Now there’s a growing movement to classify Alzheimer’s disease as a type of diabetes. In fact, the suggestion was floated as long ago as 2005, and recently, more and more evidence is pointing in that direction. As type 3 diabetes, it would be the second most common form, affecting an estimated 35 million people.
Some support for this notion came in July, when researchers found a direct link between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. In both conditions, the patient’s brain shows damage in a protein called amyloid beta peptide, which is an important part of brain function. In another study, insulin was found to be used in the formation of memories, and low insulin was linked with poor memory.