More evidence has been uncovered that Alzheimer’s disease may actually be a third form of diabetes, according to researchers from Northwestern University.
Insulin and insulin receptors in your brain are crucial for learning and memory, and it’s known that these components are lower in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In your brain, insulin binds to an insulin receptor at a synapse, which triggers a mechanism that allows nerve cells to survive and memories to form.
The Northwestern University researchers have found that a toxic protein in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients -- called ADDL for “amyloid ß-derived diffusible ligand” -- removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, and renders those neurons insulin resistant.
The findings suggest that ADDLs accumulate at the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease and thereby block memory function.
The process is currently thought to be reversible.
The researchers speculated that drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, which also causes insulin resistance, may “supercede currently available Alzheimer’s drugs.”
The FASEB Journal August 24, 2007
Interestingly, while low insulin levels are typically associated with improved health, the opposite appears to be true for your brain.
A drop in insulin production in your brain contributes to the degeneration of your brain cells, and studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer’s disease.
This new study from Northwestern University has found that a toxic protein may be rendering your neurons insulin resistant and blocking your memory function.
Another noteworthy connection between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes came out in 2004, when it was revealed that people with diabetes might have a 65 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Prevent Diabetes AND Alzheimer’s Disease
No one is likely to be measuring your brain insulin levels in the near future (although a test that measures ADDL in your spinal fluid claims to detect Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages). And the best “treatment” for Alzheimer’s disease continues to be prevention, not drugs.
It is not a coincidence that three of the most important methods I recommend to prevent Alzheimer’s disease are identical to those recommended to prevent diabetes, because the single most important physical factor that is responsible for accelerating nearly every chronic disease known to man is to normalize your insulin and leptin levels. This is true for everything, from slowing down the aging process to maximizing the energy you have.
So this normalization would typically lower insulin and leptin levels in your body and raise them in your brain. If you want to significantly cut your risk of both of these diseases, you can:
- Exercise. Exercise protects your brain just as it protects the rest of your body from diabetes.
- Get plenty of high-quality omega-3 in your diet, such as by taking a krill oil supplement. A diet rich in omega-3 fats has been found to ward off both Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.