Potential link between diabetes and Alzheimer's

Potential link between diabetes and Alzheimer's

A new study has suggested that treatments used to control and manage diabetes could also be used to fight Alzheimer's disease.

The research, conducted by the University of Aberdeen, looked at animal models and found that drugs currently used to control glucose levels in patients with diabetes could also work to alleviate the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Published in the journal Diabetologia, the findings are the first time that a link has been made between dementia-related complications in the brain and the changes in glucose that are found in type 2 diabetes.

The study, led by Professor Mirela Delibegovic, personal chair at the University of Aberdeen, involved collaboration between Alzheimer’s and diabetes research experts.

Together, they wanted to look into why older patients so commonly experience both of the diseases.

The researchers then developed a model of Alzheimer’s disease and found that increased levels of a gene involved in the production of toxic proteins led to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, as well as diabetic complications.

According to the team, around 80 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have some form of diabetes or disturbed glucose metabolism, though many remain unaware of the link between the two conditions.

They described this as "hugely relevant", as in most cases Alzheimer’s is not inherited, so other factors like lifestyle and comorbidities must be responsible.

“Our research teams are particularly interested in the impact of lifestyle related factors in dementia and by collaborating with experts in diabetes and metabolism, we have been able to investigate the nature of the link in great detail," the authors wrote.

Previously, it was assumed that obese people get type 2 diabetes and then become more likely to get dementia, but the findings suggest it actually works the other way round.

The study could lead to potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease as measures to control obesity and diabetes may also benefit Alzheimer’s patients as well.

Find out more about Alzheimer's disease care at Barchester homes.