Diabetes may increase risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

A new study has found that many people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease also have pre-diabetes, suggesting one problem could be the cause of the other.

Georgetown University neurologist R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, study examines resveratrol, a compound found in red grapes and red wine, to see if it might change glucose levels in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

He said that resveratrol is believed to act on proteins in the brain in a way that mimics effects of a low-calorie diet. Turner, director of the Georgetown University Medical Center’s Memory Disorders Program that its known from animal studies that caloric restriction prevents diseases of aging like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

He said that on the flip side of the coin, having diabetes increases one’s risk of developing AD, so perhaps by improving glucose tolerance, both diabetes and Alzheimer’s could be prevented or delayed.

To join the resveratrol study, participants were first given a fasting glucose tolerance test to obtain a baseline level, and then retested two hours after eating.

During digestion, the blood sugar level increases, but the pancreas produces insulin to lower it. A high sugar level after two hours reveals glucose intolerance (pre-diabetes) or diabetes if the level is very high.

Turner said that the number of people with glucose intolerance (pre-diabetes) was much higher than expected asserting that he was surprised by how many people didn’t know they were pre-diabetic, and these are individuals who already get the best medical care

Five (4 percent) of 128 participants had impaired fasting glucose levels while three others (2 percent) had findings consistent with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Of the 125 subjects who completed the two-hour test, 38 (30 percent) demonstrated glucose intolerance while 16 (13 percent) had results consistent with diabetes.

Thus, the overall prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes at two hours was 43 percent – or almost half of the individuals recruited to the study.