Theory links memory disease with brain's problem using sugar
By LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press
First published: Tuesday, May 2, 2006
WASHINGTON -- A provocative new theory suggests that one root cause of Alzheimer's disease is linked to diabetes -- a theory about to be tested in thousands of Alzheimer's patients given the diabetes drug Avandia in hopes of slowing brain decay.
It's a scary scenario: Alzheimer's already is expected to skyrocket as the population grays, rising from 4.5 million sufferers today to a staggering 14 million by 2050. If the new theory is right, the nation's current obesity-fueled epidemic of Type 2 diabetes could worsen that toll.
But proponents see potential good news: If diabetic-like changes in the way brain cells use sugar to generate energy truly trigger Alzheimer's in at least some patients, then maybe doctors could intervene early and slow down that degeneration.
Diabetes has long been listed a risk factor for Alzheimer's later in life because it damages blood vessels that supply the brain.
The Avandia research suggests a more insidious connection: that Alzheimer's can be silently triggered when brain cells can't properly use their main fuel, sugar -- just as Type 2 diabetes is triggered when insulin gradually loses its ability to process sugar body-wide.
"When they're in an insulin-resistant state, it does not just affect the body, it affects the brain as well," explained Suzanne Craft of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, who led the initial research.
There are 18 million Type 2 diabetics, considered to have two to five times a non-diabetic's risk of developing Alzheimer's -- if they live long enough, into the 60s and 70s when Alzheimer's typically strikes, Craft says. Type 2 diabetes often leads to heart disease or other ailments that kill before then.
This is a very interesting theory and one that considers watching. There has been a huge rise in both Diabetes and Alzheimer's and it makes sense that the overuse of sugar in our diets can cause both spikes. Alzheimer's is a horrible, insidious disease that robs patients of precious memories of loved ones. It is very disheartening to watch people deteriorate into a mere shell of themselves. Caregiver strain is a major issue as sometimes patients are abused by the very people trying to care for them. We have to be vigilant in order to make sure that the patient and the family is taken care of in these situations. Diabetes is no picnic either! This disease effects several areas of the body and is very hard for patients and families to deal with as well.
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