Alzheimer’s: A Brain-Specific Diabetes Termed as Type-3 by Researchers
Alzheimer’s disease brings a horrific catastrophe upon the patients and their families. It turns out to be a bumpy experience for the families who witness their loved ones forgetting their self-identity and all the beautiful relationships that had once tied them to so much affection and memories.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of growing dementia that affects more than 5 million people in America and has turned out to be the 6th leading cause of death. These rates are projected to gain a steep rise over the next few years.
Some researchers are concerned about the fact that acquiring Alzheimer's disease has close links with type 2 diabetes which is triggered by insulin resistance and insufficient production of insulin. Other studies have found an increased risk of getting dementia in type 2 diabetes patients.
With the alarming rates of connections found between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, here are some extracts from various research studies which can help us to understand the connection between these two diseases.
The link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease:
When the pancreatic β-cells fail to produce sufficient insulin to overcome insulin resistance, the blood sugar level rises higher than normal and leads to the condition known as type 2 diabetes. Researchers have indicated that half of the type 2 diabetes patients may, later on, develop Alzheimer's disease due to insulin resistance and insufficient production of insulin in the body.
Scientists designed an interesting experiment with mice to find out the cause of Alzheimer’s in humans. The mice were fed a high-fat diet to induce the type 2 diabetic conditions in them.
Later, these mice went on to develop a resistance to brain insulin, and their brain structure worsened significantly because of the higher consumption of fat diet.
However, the cognitive functioning of the brain remained somewhat the same, and it was not affected to the level that was seen with Alzheimer's patients.
This research concluded that insulin resistance (induced by high fat diet) may worsen the brain condition and increase the risk of acquiring dementia, but it is not the main culprit that induces the disease in humans.
Is Alzheimer’s a new type of diabetes?
Researchers continued their studies to explore more about diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Instead of experimenting on mice, they conducted direct research on dead people who had Alzheimer’s but not type 1 or 2 diabetes.
Researchers were surprised to see that the brains of dead Alzheimer’s patients showed the same abnormalities as diabetic patients, including compromised glucose metabolism in the brain. This has propelled researchers to come to the conclusion that Alzheimer's is probably a brain-specific type of diabetes which they are calling the ‘Type-3 Diabetes.’
Diabetes patients experience some uncomfortable syndromes like behavior changes, confusion, and seizures due to the imbalanced level of sugar in their bloodstream. However, in Alzheimer's patients, the syndromes are even more fatal because it directly harms the brain's structure and ruins its functioning capabilities permanently.
The brains of Alzheimer’s patients cannot metabolize glucose and are unable to use them properly. This failure of glucose processing of the brain heavily declines our cognitive abilities like holding memories, arranging words in communications and more. The condition becomes more depressing when the decline in glucose processing levels starts to decrease the size of the brain.
The cause and medication of Alzheimer’s disease:
Currently, there is no medication or disease modification therapy for Alzheimer’s disease which means the doctors have nothing to do but stand spectator to the suffering of millions of patients in the country.
Researchers, on the other hand, just know how the disease affects the human brain and what it looks like, but they are clueless about the specific cause that is triggering it.
Now that researchers have found a strong link between Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, they are looking at this possibility to determine if diabetes medication could help treat the Alzheimer’s patients.
Some studies have observed the capabilities of insulin medications to provide protection against the structural abnormalities of the brain that develop in Alzheimer's patients.
In some cases, insulin injection has worked quite well to improve the brain's ability to metabolize glucose which is known to improve the brain's cognitive functioning.
These studies all indicate that having healthy β-cells to produce sufficient insulin may do more than overcoming insulin resistance.
The final take on Alzheimer’s:
Recent human and animal studies have given us reason to become hopeful that someday Alzheimer’s won’t be a frightening disease and we can at least learn to control it, even if a permanent cure remains unavailable.
In the meantime, diabetes patients should take preventive measures like eating a healthy diet, exercising, stimulating the brain through various mental tasks and visiting their physicians regularly. Furthermore, maintaining healthy pancreatic β-cell function is important.