Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Brain Insulin Resistance Connecting Alzheimer's & Diabetes

There are studies that suggest having diabetes might increase the chances of Alzheimer's. But in this case, a new study from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai indicates the opposite. Based on the research published in Alzheimer's and Dementia, Alzheimer's interferes with the signaling mechanism of insulin which is in charge of metabolism regulation, thus makes the patient susceptible for diabetes. The results of the study points that there are heightened levels of certain amino acids in the blood – this could signify that there is a problem with the brain insulin process.

The study belongs to a research supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) and they conducted an experiment done in mice. The study helped discover that the mice with Alzheimer's are insulin resistant and show increased levels of amino acids (BCAA).

Christoph Buettner, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes, Bone Disease and Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and lead author of the study says, "This is the first study to suggest that Alzheimer's disease pathology increases susceptibility to diabetes due to impaired insulin signaling in the hypothalamus."

The condition, Alzheimer's disease, is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progressively damages an individual's memory, motor, language, and communication skills. On another note, diabetes is ranked as the seventh leading cause of mortality rate nationwide. This is a metabolic disorder that is responsible for the increased high blood sugar levels. This is due to the inability of the body to produce insulin.

One of the risk factors is aging, and it is a major contributor in both disease conditions.

Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry; Associate Director, Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center; and co-author of the study explains, "Our findings represent a turning point in the understanding of the relationship between Alzheimer's disease, type II diabetes and insulin resistance. "

He also adds, "Compelling and unexpected results such as Dr. Buettner's are driving a complete re-evaluation of how these diseases interact. Now that we have disease genes for dementia and diabetes, those genes are our ground zero, and the challenge is to work out all the steps and missteps between the gene and the patient and then to find interventions that cure those missteps."