There is increasing evidence that insulin problems are a possible trigger for Alzheimer’s disease. Type 1 diabetes is when the body can’t make insulin; Type 2 diabetes develops when insulin levels are so high that the body develops insulin resistance. Now researchers are finding that when insulin doesn’t work correctly in the brain; there is a strong correlation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 1
Insulin isn’t just about controlling blood glucose levels: it helps brain cells to develop memories and Northwestern University scientists studied the effects of insulin shortages on Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. 2
Alzheimer’s patients have lower levels of insulin overall than healthy people do and are usually insulin-resistant as well.3 Amyloid beta-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) are the plaques that plague the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. The Northwestern researchers found that ADDLs destroy insulin receptors on neurons, short-circuiting the memory process. 4
Neuropathologist Suzanne la Monte coined the moniker “type 3 diabetes” back in 2005 when she discovered that the brain makes its own insulin and that Alzheimer’s disease reduces insulin levels. 5
Although scientists debate whether Alzheimer’s is a complication of diabetes or another type of diabetes,6 Dr. Zina Kroner of the American Board of Internal Medicine has found similar rates of oxidative stress in both diabetic patients and those with Alzheimer’s disease. 7 She believes that nutritional counseling and early diagnosis of diabetes may be preventive tactics in the development of Alzheimer’s.8
More evidence for the insulin-Alzheimer’s link has emerged from drug research. When scientists from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research tested the effects of metformin on brain cells (a drug prescribed to diabetics and pre-diabetics) they found that the drug can double the formation of the amyloid-beta plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.9 Metformin wasn’t thought to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier but the researchers found significant accumulations of the drug in the brains of mice. 10
The scientists also found that when they added insulin to the metformin dosages, this effect was reversed. 11
Researcher Huaxi Xu says that diabetics already have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and that taking metformin on its own will greatly increase this risk. 12 Xu and his colleague Paul Greengard have previously found insulin to be a potential defense against Alzheimer’s disease. 13
Alzheimer’s disease researcher Gregory Brewer says that diabetes is more life-threatening than Alzheimer’s disease so it is important to treat but he does add that diet and exercise benefit both Alzheimer’s patients and diabetics. 14
Recent research has found that high blood glucose levels damage blood vessels that supply the brain, contributing to the development of plaques there.15 Worse, it isn’t full-blown diabetes that has this effect: it seems to begin happening long before people are diagnosed with the disease. 16
Diabetes usually kills people before Alzheimer’s disease has a chance to develop but considering that in 2007, 5.7 million Americans were estimated to have undiagnosed diabetes and that diabetes and obesity are on the rise; 17 it’s likely that Alzheimer’s disease will continue to climb in aging populations. More people will be living with reduced insulin function for longer time than ever before.
Pre-diabetics are people who have either impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose intolerance (IGT).18 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that from 1999 to 2000, 7% of American adolescents had IFG and from 2000 to 2006 it is estimated that 57 million Americans over the age of 20 were pre-diabetic in 2007.19
The CDC also reports that in 2007, almost 60% of diagnosed diabetics in the US took only oral medications—without added insulin.20
Vice Chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association’s scientific advisory Dr. Ralph Nixon says it pays to be “hedging your bets against Alzheimer’s” with truly preventive medicine and treatments: diet and exercise. 21
Dr. Blahnik’s Action Steps
Healthy Body/Brain Connection: Spinal Corrective Care Chiropractic (this is not pain management Chiropractic) adjustments to remove pressure and interference on the nervous system, paying particular attention to how the atlas (C1) is positioned against the brainstem. Remove any damaging pressure to allow the body to function at a higher level.
- Hydrate properly with a minimum of ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day. (for example 100lbs / 2 = 50 ounces of water (H2O) per day.
- Magnesium,Vitamin B6,Iron,Zinc,Melatonin (most of which can be found in a multi-vitamin): RDA
- Cod Liver Oil: 1-3 Tbsp. for adults 150 lbs. or more, 2 tsp. 80-150 lbs., 1 tsp. 50-80 lbs.
- Eliminate grains and sugars: Replace them with vegetables and berries
- Eliminate Dairy: replace with coconut milk, almond milk or rice milk
- GET some Movement & Exercise: helps stimulate the brain and improves blood circulation to the brain. Circulation of oxygen dramatically improves with minutes of movement per day, oxygen deficiency can lead to focus and attention problems.
- Eliminate and restrict artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. According to studies elimination these substances dramatically improved ADHD symptoms in 50% of children.
- Eliminate exposure to potential neurotoxins (such as lead, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides) in the environment and many vaccines.
- Avoid the Top 10 Food Additives suggested by Dr. Mercola
- Sodium Nitrate (also called Sodium Nitrite)
- BHA and BHT (Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydrozyttoluene)
- Propyl Gallate
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Trans Fats
- Food Colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6
- Potassium Bromate
1)Guthrie, Catherine (2007, Oct. 18). Is Alzheimer’s a Form of Diabetes? Time Magazine [online]. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1673236,00.html
2)Kroner, Z. (2009, Dec. 14).The Relationship Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Diabetes: Type 3 Diabetes? Alternative Medicine Review [online]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030463
3)Gramza, Joyce (2009, Feb. 23).Diabetes Drug Linked To Alzheimer’s. Science Central [online]. Retrieved from http://www.sciencentral.com/video/2009/02/23/diabetes-drug/
4)Neergaard, Lauran (2009, Mar. 17). More Evidence Links Diabetes to Alzheimer’s Risk. The Huffington Post [online]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/17/more-evidence-links-diabe_n_175715.html
5)NIDDK (2008). National Diabetes Statistics, 2007 Fact Sheet. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [online]. Retrieved from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/index.htm