Sunday, January 02, 2011

Alzheimer's Disease - Or is it Diabetes?

Alzheimer's Disease -- or is it diabetes?

Researchers at Northwestern University have published their findings regarding an important correlation between the brain’s use of insulin – and forms of resistance to insulin – and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Insulin is a hormone which the brain uses to anchor new memories. When certain toxic proteins (which are known to pile up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s) bind to the neurons at the synapse, they take up the “parking spaces” which the neurons are holding open for insulin. The insulin which should be entering those parking spaces, or receptors, can be thought of as the little wagon which brings in the memory. Insulin is thwarted where it is supposed to be doing its job. This is a form of insulin resistance. The correlation is so strong that the authors of this research are calling it “Type 3 diabetes.”

Professionals working with later stage Alzheimer’s patients have found that a big dose of sugar, while certainly not part of a recommended diet, can often give the patient a window of cognition. I wonder if that sugar dose is triggering the body to release more insulin. If so, could the brain is then use it to provide some synaptic snap?

The various researchers working to uncover more of the mysteries of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are not in agreement about how important a role is played by the production of insulin in the brain. However, the conversation is stimulating some very promising new areas of research.

You can read more about the recently published paper here, and more about the discovery that the brain produces insulin here.

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