Is There A Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's?

We've talked in the past about the rise of diabetes. It is a common statistic in the medical community that by 2050, one in three Americans will have some form of diabetes.

But did you another that Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is also on the rise? And scientists believe they may have discovered why.

The Rising Tide of Alzheimer's

It is estimated that by 2050 (there's that year again), 140 million people will suffer from AD worldwide. That number may be alarming, but according to Professor Bettina Platt of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, it shouldn't be.

“Many people are unaware of the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease,” Platt has said of her research. “But the fact is that around 80% of people with Alzheimer's disease also have some form of diabetes or disturbed glucose metabolism. This is hugely relevant as Alzheimer's is in the vast majority of cases not inherited, and lifestyle factors and comorbidities must therefore be to blame.”

Platt and her researchers recently conducted a study along with Professor Mirela Delibegovic of University of Aberdeen's diabetes research team. The two teams developed a model of AD for their analysis, which revealed that “increased levels of a gene involved in the production of toxic proteins in the brain not only led to Alzheimer's -like symptoms, but also to the development of diabetic complications.”

In fact, the relationship between AD and diabetes was so strong that Platt and Delibegovic concluded, in a study published by Diabetologica, that the drugs currently in use to treat diabetes may help slow the progress of Alzheimer's.

Another Link Across the World

The University of Aberdeen study reflects a connection that has been well-known to doctors on the other side of the globe for some time. In Japan, cases of AD have risen 6 percent over the past two decades, which many contribute to the Westernization of the Japanese diet. This nutritional shift has also resulted in a rise in type 2 diabetes across the country.

And though her findings may be unsettling to many, Platt believes this research is an incredible breakthrough for diabetics and Alzheimer's patients alike. “The good news is there are a number of new drugs available right now,” she said, “which we are testing to see if they would reverse both Alzheimer's and diabetes symptoms.

“We will also be able to study whether new treatments developed for Alzheimer's can improve both, the diabetic and cognitive symptoms.”

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