UW study confirms link between Alzheimer's disease and diabetes - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW study confirms link between Alzheimer's disease and diabetes

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A new UW study has confirmed a link between Alzheimer's disease and diabetes.

Researchers with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health found people in the early stages of diabetes are showing signs of brain dysfunction by using brain scans of people with a family history of Alzheimer's disease. The research involved 150 members in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP) over a two year period.

Dr. Barb Bendlin, the lead author, is an assistant professor of medicine at UW and a researcher for the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. According to Bendlin, the findings showed high levels of insulin resistance in the brains of study participants and a reduced uptake of glucose.

Bendlin said the research confirms tests that had been done earlier on animals. 

"In Alzheimer's disease, the brain shows low levels of insulin, which is important for memory function," Bendlin said. "One theory is that brain cells become insulin resistant, which is a feature of diabetes. The brain can't take up the sugar it needs, because it is not responding to insulin, or insulin levels in the brain may be low."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 27 percent of people aged 65 and older in the U.S. have diabetes and about half have pre-diabetes. People with diabetes face double the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

"The hypothesis is that diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, but not everyone with diabetes is going to get Alzheimer's," Bendlin said. "We're interested in how early interventions could protect people, and one of the things you could do to protect your brain is maintain proper blood sugar levels."

Bendlin's findings will be published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, and during this week's Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston.

 

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