A new body of research, put out by the National Institutes of Health, shifts the focus of Alzheimer’s treatment away from amyloid beta and tau proteins in the brain and highlights the biological actors: glucose and insulin. It is suggested that by lowering a person’s blood sugar could help ward off the symptoms of dementia.
This began with observations that diabetics were at a greater risk for developing dementia. Then a study from the University of Washington found a link between higher levels of blood sugar and the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. These higher glucose levels are caused by a combination of poor diet, insufficient exercise, and an individual’s metabolism. “There are many studies that suggest that exercise is good for cognitive function; there are very few studies based on caloric reduction. This seems to be further evidence consistent with the idea that moving your body more is a good idea,” lead researcher Dr. Paul Crane told Healthline.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that high glucose levels might drive Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin, which regulates glucose levels, plays a part in regulating amyloid beta, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. “Simultaneously we believe beta amyloid is increasing, in large part because of these changes in insulin resistance and insulin, and as a result, we see symptoms begin to occur, problems with memory, which worsen over time until a person might be well on their way to developing Alzheimer’s disease,” Suzanne Craft, a co-author of the study now at Wake Forest University, explained in an HBO video on Alzheimer’s disease.
Craft has investigated, in several studies, using a nasal inhaler that sends the insulin directly to the brain. In just several weeks, patients in the study showed improved cognitive function. “One of the most exciting things about our work, I think, is the prospect that it offers for preventing or delaying dementia,” Craft said. “Estimates are that if you delay the onset just five years, you’ll reduce half of all the cases.”