Untangling The Link Between Alzheimers Disease And Diabetes: What The Latest Science Tells Us – Forbes

October 29th, 2019 2:48 pm

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Alzheimers disease and type 2 diabetes could be linked in ways were only beginning understand, according to scientists presenting the latest research findings at Neuroscience 2019, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Untangling the connection could lead to earlier Alzheimers diagnosis and better treatments for both diseases.

The crux of the connection is how the brain metabolizes its energy sourceblood glucose (aka blood sugar)and the variety of factors that influence that process, including diet, sleep, and cardiovascular health.

Not much is known about the connection between dementia and the metabolic system that fuels the brain, said panel moderator David Holtzman, MD, a professor at Washington University and scientific director of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders. Further research can help us understand how to manipulate these functions for treatment purposes, as well as better identify the underpinnings of the disease.

Researchers presented findings approaching the problem from several angles.

Sami Gabbouj, a researcher from the University of Eastern Finland, discussed a study showing that the typical Western diet, high in fat and carbohydrates, leads to decreased brain insulin signaling and eventually impaired memory in mice genetically prone to Alzheimers. Insulin signaling is key to how the brain monitors and manages insulin release to balance blood sugar. Previous research has found a link between damaged insulin signaling and the development of Alzheimer's.

The typical western diet made worse age-related memory impairment in the mice, Gabbouj said.

The results suggest the possibility that the Western diet may handicap the brains energy metabolism and serve as a trigger for worsening memory in those genetically predisposed to Alzheimers.

Steven W. Barger, PhD, from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, presented research showing that Alzheimers disease mimics diabetes by impairing how the brain metabolizes blood sugar. By examining mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's, researchers observed that a flaw in glucose delivery to neurons leaves extra glucose in the blood.

Alzheimers mice show diabetes traits on a normal diet, [with the] same physical activity levels and same feeding habits, Barger added. The findings shed light on why human Alzheimers patients often have higher blood sugar levels, and further confirm a link between the diseases.

Sleep research has also revealed connections between blood glucose metabolism and Alzheimers.A study presented by Shannon L. Macauley, PhD, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, showed that glucose resistance and abnormal sleep patterns are prevalent in Alzheimers [predisposed] mice prior to the appearance of any other disease symptoms, such as cognitive decline.

This research points to the early role sleep loss seems to play in the development of Alzheimers, and suggests that poor sleep combined with type 2 diabetes may be especially dangerous for those at genetic risk for dementia.

The researchers were careful to note that the cause and effect across all of these studies isnt entirely clear. We dont yet know whether diabetes is a precursor to Alzheimers or if impaired blood sugar metabolism is a side-effect of Alzheimers. Its just too early to know either way. Ultimately we may find that both are true. And since much of the research to-date relies on animal models, were also not sure how closely these results will translate in humans.

What we do have is a strong starting point for understanding the link between these diseases that affect millions, and that may eventually lead to improved diagnosis and treatments.

Research was presented at Neuroscience 2019, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago. Studies are considered preliminary prior to being published.

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Untangling The Link Between Alzheimers Disease And Diabetes: What The Latest Science Tells Us - Forbes

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