Could Alzheimer's Really be Type 3 Diabetes?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  January 19, 2018
Could Alzheimer's Really be Type 3 Diabetes?
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Alzheimer's is a disease that continues to challenge researchers. In recent years, however, one theory has seen growing support: the potential link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

If you’ve visited our blog before, you know we talk a lot about nutrition and the role it plays in aging well. A healthy diet helps prevent everything from falls to cardiac disease. Studies suggest that diabetes causes brain insulin resistance which can impact cognitive function and could lead to Alzheimer’s, thus another reason to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Possible Link Between Alzheimer’s and Diabetes

There is some debate over the extent to which diabetes contributes to the progressive symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease. There is still a lot to learn, but there does appear to be a relationship between obesity, diabetes, and the Alzheimer’s.

The hormone insulin may hold the key to understanding the relationship between Alzheimer's and diabetes. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and sends a signal to the body when it needs to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. When those signals don’t work properly, however, diabetes can be the result.

There are currently two recognized forms of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually developed in a childhood or as an adolescent. This type destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, rendering the body unable to absorb glucose. Only five percent of people with diabetes have this type, and the cause is still being researched.
  • Type 2 diabetes is typically developed later in life, and it is often linked to lifestyle. This form of diabetes prevents cells from absorbing glucose from the bloodstream, resulting in a condition known as insulin resistance. Researchers believe insulin resistance in the brain may be the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer's Disease

Insulin resistance is believed to contribute to the creation of beta amyloid plaques in the brain that are present in people with Alzheimer's.  There is evidence to suggest insulin resistance in the brain reduces cognitive function; in fact, some scientists have started calling Alzheimer's “type 3 diabetes.” 

More research is needed to establish a definitive connection between these two conditions. But it is worth taking steps to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes—including eating right and exercising—as you grow older.

For more information and advice on type 2 diabetes prevention, visit the American Diabetes Association.

Healthy Living at Sunrise

We know eating well often begins with having fresh, new ideas for well-balanced meals. That’s why our Sunrise chefs take pride in preparing meals that delight our residents’ taste buds while meeting important nutritional needs.

We invite you to visit our Senior Eats blogs to see some of our recipes!

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