The deadly connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s—part 2

Editor’s note: This article began in the Dec. 13-19, 2006 issue.

New research, earlier studies

support diabetes-Alzheimer’s link

While declining levels of acetylcholine and formation of beta amyloid plaques in the brain are characteristic of Alzheimer’s, oxidative damage and the accumulation of advanced glycation end products occur in both Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. These biochemical similarities may be a telling link between the two seemingly different diseases.

At an Alzheimer’s Association international conference held in Madrid in July 2006, scientists presented multiple studies linking diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. For example, Swedish scientists unveiled findings associating borderline diabetes with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, particularly in those with very high systolic blood pressure. Over the course of their nine-year study, borderline diabetes was associated with a nearly 70 percent greater risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s in individuals over the age of 75. The risk was even more pronounced in those with severely elevated systolic blood pressure (180 mmHg or above). The authors concluded, “Our findings have significant implications for public health because some studies show that impaired glucose regulation can be improved by lifestyle changes. Our findings also highlight the need to detect borderline diabetes in order to proactively address both type II diabetes and dementia.”

Scientists from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., reported that diabetic individuals with very poor blood sugar control experience a dramatically increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Their eight-year study, which tracked 22,852 patients aged 50 or above with type II diabetes, sought to determine whether elevated glycosylated hemoglobin, a marker of long-term blood sugar control, correlated with an increased risk of dementia. They found that patients with very poor blood sugar control were more likely to develop dementia. Compared to those with normal glycosylated hemoglobin levels (

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