Originally published March 9 2009
Researchers Speculate Alzheimer's is New Diabetes Type
by Cathy Sherman
(NaturalNews) Some researchers and doctors are now saying Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the new diabetes. Beware of any pharmaceutical claims and check the dietary hints at the end of this article first. Though there are similarities between the two disorders, it's too soon to jump to any drugs to prevent AD. Much more research is needed, so at this point, some clarification is definitely in order.
One of the prominent research studies being circulated is from Northwestern University, which found that insulin blocks the buildup of amyloid protein plaques. It is the buildup of such plaques in the brain that interferes with memory (one of the symptoms that defines AD) and has been found in autopsies, Before we get too excited about this research result, it needs to be pointed out that the plaques studied were on nerve cells of rats, not brain cells. Also, the type of insulin being used was not clearly defined.
A problem with this study is that the researchers also applied a drug, rosiglitazone, which was found to increase the effectiveness of the insulin. This drug is found in a widely advertised pharmaceutical many of us know as Avandia. Avandia is problematic, as it is not advised to be used by those taking insulin for diabetes control because of its involvement in heart attacks among such patients.
This is where the clarification in regard to insulin is important. Since 2005, studies at Brown University showed that insulin is produced not only in the pancreas, but also in the brain. In the Northwestern study, it was the rosiglitazone that bolstered the production of insulin in the brain and seemingly might offer a hope for those who are losing brain insulin due to aging or diabetes, with one caution. Though this finding demonstrates a significant potential to slow or deter AD pathogenesis, it is only for those who are not on insulin.
Types 1 and 2 diabetes result from a decrease in the production of insulin by the pancreas and are alike in that the amount of sugar in the blood increases. With the brain insulin-related condition now being called diabetes 3, blood sugar level is not affected. That seems to be a major difference.
There are also strong similarities. One is that deposits of the protein which cause the plaque have been found in the pancreas of those with diabetes 1 and 2, and in the brains of those with "diabetes 3", or AD. It is also recognized that diabetes 1 and 2 sufferers have up to a 65% higher risk of developing AD. These two circumstances indicate a strong link between diabetes and AD, but the causes of the relationship still need to be determined.
There are similar factors in the development of both disorders as well. In both we find impaired glucose/energy metabolism, oxidative stress, altered insulin-signaling pathways, some lipid metabolism dysfunction and inflammation. Some research has shown that vascular dysfunction contributes to AD, and it also is involved in diabetes.
Reactions from experts in the field have covered a wide range. As we've heard, some call the brain-centered insulin depletion "diabetes 3". Others say it is a totally different ailment which doesn't correspond to type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but appears to follow a different and more complex disease process which originates in the central nervous system.
A representative from the Alzheimer's Research Trust said that it's been believed for awhile that insulin and its growth factors play a very important role in Alzheimer's Disease. One suggestion is that the link could be in molecular changes which are affected by insulin. The trust is funding research into the way insulin acts on the brain in an attempt to increase understanding about Alzheimer's.
Professor Gregory Cole, from the University of California Los Angeles' Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, has been doing many interesting research studies in relation to AD, besides looking at the diabetes connection. He said: "This is a new finding. It is interesting that the brain makes very low levels of insulin. But its significance is unclear. The levels are so low that they have not been detected with less sensitive methods."
What may be more exciting to Natural News readers on the AD subject are Professor Cole's findings on other substances besides insulin which may block amyloid plaques. Curcumin, or turmeric, the yellow Indian spice used in curry, was also found to block the plaques in mice. In addition, he has found that docosahexenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid present in cold-water fish, substantially slowed AD's progression in mice inflicted with the disorder.
Does this mean that eating curried fish will help prevent Alzheimer's? It's definitely food for thought. Whether or not it can, it's at least good for a number of other ailments and certainly beats using a pharmaceutical with all of its harmful side effects! Just remember to choose the coldwater fish which are lowest in mercury, such as herring, freshwater trout, wild salmon, sardines, shad and anchovies.
It bears repeating that much more research needs to be done before there is unanimous agreement that Alzheimer's Disease is a type of diabetes. For most of us, this is not the crucial issue. What we do need to keep in mind and act on is the knowledge that a diet rich in raw foods and low in sugars, coupled with a lifestyle that includes plenty of daily exercise, will help to keep insulin at good levels.
If some people want to add some curried foods and coldwater fish to the mix, they just might find it true that fish is indeed brain food.
Journal of Alzheimers Disease http://www.j-alz.com/issues/16/vol16-4.html:
- Paula I. Moreira, Ana I. Duarte, Maria S. Santos, A. Cristina Rego, Catarina R. Oliveira,
"An Integrative View of the Role of Oxidative Stress, Mitochondria and Insulin in Alzheimer's Disease"
- V. Prakash Reddy, Xiongwei Zhu, George Perry, Mark A. Smith (Handling Editor: Ralph N. Martins) "Oxidative Stress in Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease"
- Sajjad Muhammad, Angelika Bierhaus, Markus Schwaninger, "Reactive Oxygen Species in Diabetes-induced Vascular Damage, Stroke, and Alzheimer's Disease"
- Allan Jones, Philipp Kulozik, Anke Ostertag, Stephan Herzig, "Common Pathological Processes and Transcriptional Pathways in Alzheimer's Disease and Type 2 Diabetes"
- Elzbieta Kojro, Rolf Postina, "Regulated Proteolysis of RAGE and as Possible Link Between Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Alzheimer's Disease"
BBC News, 7 March 2005, "Study Suggests 'Type 3 Diabetes' "
Jenny Thompson, HSI e-newsletter, February 2009
About the authorCathy Sherman is a freelance writer with a major interest in natural health and in encouraging others to take responsibility for their health. She can be reached through www.devardoc.com.
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