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Published on: December 1, 2013
by Lizzie Edmonds & Sophie Borland for Daily Mail:
Alzheimer’s and diabetes may be the same disease, scientists claim.
They have uncovered evidence that the debilitating form of dementia may be late stages of type 2 diabetes. The discovery would explain why nearly three quarters of patients with this form of diabetes go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from Albany University, New York State, believe the excess insulin they produce gets into the brain and disrupts key chemicals. Eventually masses of amyloid proteins – which poison brain cells – are created because of the excess which leads to Alzheimers, they say.
Ewan McNay from the University said: ‘People who develop diabetes have to realise this is about more than controlling their weight or diet. It’s also the first step on the road to cognitive decline.
‘At first they won’t be able to keep up with their kids playing games, but in 30 years’ time they may not even recognise them.’
According to the National Diabetes Audit, about 2.5m people have Type 2 diabetes, 80 per cent of which were overweight or obese. Alzheimer’s affects 500,000 Britons.
The increased risk of Alzheimer’s for those with Type 2 has been suspected among the scientific community for a while.
However, as many people with Type 2 are obese and therefore have shorter life-expectancies, little research has been conducted.
The scientists experimented on rats, feeding them a diet with a high-fat content in the hope the would develop Type 2.
They then tested the animal’s brains and found their memory skills rapidly went down hill as their diabetes progressed.
When researchers looks at the rats’ brains areas of amyloid protein could be seen. Patients with Alzheimer’s have similar patterns.
McNay, who says he’s cut down on chocolate since conducting the research, believes the clumps develop because, as the body becomes resistant to insulin, it produces more of the hormone.
Excess insulin then travels to the brain where it is supposed to be controlled by an enzyme that breaks down amyloid.
He explained: ‘High levels of insulin swamp this enzyme so that it stops breaking down amyloid.
‘The latter then accumulates until it forms toxic clumps that poison brain cells. It’s the same amyloid build-up to blame in both diseases — T2 diabetics really do have low-level Alzheimer’s.’
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