In a recent study out of Japan that looked at over 1000 men and women over the age of 60, it was found that people with diabetes (especially type 2) were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Researchers are now trying to understand the molecular mechanisms that link diabetes to Alzheimer’s. It’s thought that the link may be twofold.
Nerve cells require a lot of energy to do the work of communicating. They get this energy from oxygen and glucose in the blood. With diabetes, cells lose their ability to respond to insulin, the molecule that transports glucose from the blood into the neurons, and so neurons have to cope with less glucose. Diabetes also often leads to damaged blood vessels, which compromises the delivery of oxygen to the nerves in the brain. Neurons already struggling to communicate despite too much beta-amyloid may lose the battle if glucose and oxygen are deprived.
Think of the scale arm with a bunch of risk factors piled on it. It’s hovering above ground but fighting to maintain that position. Things aren’t looking good for that synapse, but it’s still managing to function. Those neurons are still able to talk to each other. We aren’t showing any symptoms of Alzheimer’s yet. Add diabetes, and less oxygen and glucose to provide the energy the neurons need, and the scale arm goes crashing to the ground. Now