Nasal insulin could help memory and function in people with Alzheimer’s
Nasal insulin is making big news as a possible medication for people with memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease. We wrote about nasal insulin when we covered the Shriver Report on Alzheimer’s disease last December. Now, there’s more evidence that researchers may be on to something big. A new pilot study done at the University of Washington School of Medicine has succeeded in suggesting that nasal insulin can help people with Alzheimer’s disease function better overall, and have better access to memory.
Good Morning America, USA Today, the New York Times and other top news outlets are reporting today about the pilot study that has shown a type of insulin long used to treat type 2 diabetes could be a step forward in treating AD.
Diabetes is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This knowledge has led to considerable research on how insulin affects the brain, and how it may affect Alzheimer’s disease specifically.
"Our results suggest that the administration of intranasal insulin may have a therapeutic benefit for adults with aMCI or Alzheimer's disease," Suzanne Craft of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Neurology.”
The USA Today article quotes Dr. James E. Galvin, professor of neurology and psychiatry and director of the Pearl S. Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center, as saying, "Although a small study, the authors provide some of the most convincing evidence to date that insulin treatment may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease."
There have been several previous studies linking obesity, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Galvin was quoted as saying that this pilot study "…further supports links between impaired insulin signaling in the brain and cognitive decline."
Your doctor won’t give it to you for Mild Cognitive Impairment or Alzheimer’s just yet
This study, while showing great promise, was a pilot study with a fairly small number of participants. There will need to be more studies on larger populations before there is conclusive evidence that nasal insulin is a powerful tool for helping people with Alzheimer’s stave off memory problems and other health issues associated with the disease.
However, the fact that nasal insulin has been safely used for diabetics proves that it can be safely used for many humans. That, in my opinion, should speed up the process of getting FDA approval, should more studies prove that it is an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
The pilot study was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.