Diabetes May Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer’s

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s have long been recognised as being connected in some fashion, with a loose understanding that people with diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, are at much greater risk of developing the disease. However, recent research has helped establish the nature of a possible genetic link between the two.

Genetic Link

A US study of the Alzheimer’s amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene in worms suggests that the gene also impacts the way in which the body produces and processes insulin.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting 5.4 million Americans and 820,000 people in the UK.

While there are medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, these can only slow the progression of the disease, there is currently no cure.

The team of researchers from City College of New York built on previous scientific research that identified mutations in a particular gene involved in the processing of amyloid protein which run in families.

Insulin Pathways

In their study, the researchers looked at the effects of a similar gene in nematode worms, finding that the gene had a significant effect on the insulin pathway responsible for creating and processing insulin.

Prof Chris Li, leading the study said people with type-2 diabetes are at greater risk of developing dementia and noted that insulin pathways of the body are involved in a number of metabolic processes, including keeping the central nervous system healthy.

Insulin is a hormone produced and released by the pancreas as a response to elevated levels of nutrients in the blood and is responsible for triggering the uptake, storage and processing of glucose, fatty acids and amino acids necessary to fuel the body.

Type-1 diabetes is a genetic inability of the body to synthesise insulin, whereas type-2 diabetes, which is much more common and linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, is where the body develops a resistance to the effects of insulin due to defects which develop in the insulin signalling pathways.

While there is obviously a requirement for further research into the subject involving humans, the findings do open up new potential for research into developing more effective means of treating and preventing Alzheimer’s.

The Cost Of Alzheimer’s And Diabetes

Alzheimer’s and dementia are costly diseases both emotionally and financially. Due to the progressively degenerative nature of Alzheimer’s, the provision of care for patients suffering from the disease is essential.

The financial cost of care for people with Alzheimer’s in 2012 is estimated to be around $200bn in the United States and over £23bn in the UK. Coupled with Diabetes, the combined total cost of treatment for both in the United States is a staggering $420bn.


While Alzheimer’s, the 6th most common cause of death in the United States and accountable for around 15% of deaths in the UK, is the only cause of death amongst the top 10 which cannot be prevented or cured, type-2 diabetes is eminently preventable.

Over 3% of people living in the United States, or 8 million of a population of 236 million, are classed as obese. The rise in obesity in the U.S. has gone hand in hand with the surge in the number of people being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Yet simple changes to lifestyle and diet for most could significantly reduce this figure and the likelihood of developing both type-2 diabetes and, as a result, Alzheimer’s.

Reduce Your Risk

It is worth noting that being overweight alone is not a definite indicator of a likelihood you will develop type-2 diabetes. Alcohol abuse and smoking have also been shown to cause type-2 diabetes.

However, with some simple lifestyle adjustments you can greatly reduce your risk of developing the disease. If you smoke or drink heavily, then an obvious place to start would be cutting back your intake of these things. In addition, regular exercise, in the form of a daily 20 minute walk, goes a long way to reducing your risk.

If you are concerned that you may be at risk of developing type-2 diabetes, you should consult your doctor for advice on prevention or treatment.

Andrew is a health blog contributor and regularly writes for Health-on-Line,UK health insurance providers. He is also a regular contributor to health blog Follow Health.

Image Credit: 1.

Find more diabetes related posts:

  • Understanding Diabetes Risks
  • About The Connection Between Hearing Loss And Diabetes
  • Diabetes and Depression: Do They Go Hand in Hand?
  • Diabetes And Oral Health
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    2 Responses to “Diabetes May Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer’s”

    1. Diabetes May Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer's | Diabetic Diets News | Control Diabetes Says:

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    2. diabetic diet Says:

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