Putting on extra weight placing pressure on the brain. Scientific findings released within the past two years, indicate that weight gain and type 2 diabetes may trigger degenerative changes in the brain and very possibly Alzheimer’s, says Marilyn Albert, an Alzheimer’s expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Nearly 16 million people will get Alzheimer’s by 2050, experts believe. That projection could increase if the rates of obesity and diabetes don’t start to decrease, says Zoe Arvanitakis, a neurologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “There are more and more people with type 2 diabetes. We’re going to see more and more people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”
Many factors cause Alzheimer’s, so losing weight doesn’t offer any guarantee of a senility-free old age. But people who lose weight or control their diabetes might be able to keep aging brain cells in top shape as long as possible, experts say.
The evidence linking diabetes and Alzheimer’s includes a Chicago study of 842 older Catholic nuns, priests and brothers. None had any sign of Alzheimer’s at the start, but during the nine-year study, 151 developed Alzheimer’s.
People who had type 2 diabetes had a 65% increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s, according to a statistical analysis. The findings were published in the Archives of Neurology last year.
Here’s the scenario suggested by the study: Weight gain triggers insulin resistance, a condition in which cells don’t respond to the hormone insulin. Normally, insulin helps transport sugar into cells, where it is used for fuel.
But when insulin resistance develops, cells don’t get enough sugar. As time goes by, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, and the lack of sugar might cause brain cells to malfunction or die, Cole says. Dying brain cells may set the stage for Alzheimer’s.

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