9-year study concludes preventing or managing diabetes prevents cognitive decline

Caregiver, patient expert

As far back as 2006, the New York Times was reporting on  the deepening link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Now, new results from a study led by researchers from the University of California San Francisco show that there is a link between the risk of cognitive decline and the severity of diabetes.

An article on the UCSF website reports on a 9-year long study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study enrolled 3,069 adults over 70 at two community clinics in Memphis, TN and Pittsburgh, PA beginning in 1997. All the patients provided periodic blood samples and took regular cognitive tests over time.

According to the June online edition of  Archives of Neurology,_  the objective of the study was  __"_To determine if prevalent and incident diabetes mellitus (DM) increase risk of cognitive decline and if, among elderly adults with DM, poor glucose control is related to worse cognitive performance."

When the study began, hundreds of the patients already had diabetes. Ten years later, many more of them developed diabetes and many also have suffered cognitive decline. According to the researcher's, these two health outcomes were closely linked.

The article states that, "While the underlying mechanism that accounts for the link between diabetes and risk of cognitive decline is not completely understood"it may be related to a human protein known as insulin degrading enzyme, which plays an important role in regulating insulin, the key hormone linked to diabetes. This same enzyme also degrades a protein in the brain known as beta-amyloid, a brain protein linked to Alzheimer's disease."

Study shows insulin treatment may help people with cognitive issues

The results of a short term study by researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System/University of Washington-Seattle showed that treating people who had Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or  early stage Alzheimer's with intranasal insulin  had a positive effect on slowing or reversing their cognitive decline.

Since insulin is already used to treat diabetes, there is a chance that insulin may be one available treatment for some people who could be headed toward early stage Alzheimer's. There is still more work to be done before doctors will be prescribing intranasal insulin for MCI or Alzheimer's, but with increasing knowledge that diabetes and AD are linked, there should soon be more clinical drug trials leading to eventual FDA approval if the treatment is safe and effective. If you are interested in taking part in any drug trial, search for trials at clinicaltrials.gov.


Bardi, J. (2012, June 21) Preventing or Better Managing Diabetes May Prevent Cognitive Decline, According to UCSF Study. University of California San Francisco. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/12216/preventing-or-better-managing-diabetes-may-prevent-cognitive-decline-according

Yaffe, K. et. al. (2012, June) Diabetes, Glucose Control, and 9-Year Cognitive Decline Among Older Adults Without Dementia. Archives of Neurology. (Retrieved from    http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1183076

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