Higher levels of insulin resistance are associated with language problems in women, according to a new study from Finland.
Insulin resistance is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but it is also linked with cognitive decline and symptoms such as difficulty concentrating.
Researchers from the University of Turku and Turku University Hospital analysed data from 5,935 adults (3,262 women) aged between 30 and 97. Insulin resistance was measured, while verbal fluency was assessed through participants being asked to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds.
Higher insulin resistance was linked with decreased verbal fluency in women, but not men. The apolopoprotein E4 allele (APOE-4), which is a well-known risk factor for Alzheimers disease, was tested during the study, and researchers noted insulin resistance in APOE-4 negative individuals, but not APOE-4 carriers.
One possibility for these findings applying to women, but not men, could be differences in white matter hyperintensities, which are lesions in the brain. These can be detected by brain imaging, and the researchers reported these are more common in women than men.
“Although verbal fluency is not the most sensitive measure to identify early cognitive decline in adults, it associates well with insulin resistance for women and the brain regions that are negatively influenced by insulin resistance,” said the authors.
“The association between insulin resistance and cognitive functions could indicate that insulin resistance is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.”
The causal effects of insulin resistance on cognitive function were not evaluated, as the study was cross-sectional, but the researchers concluded that insulin resistance could be the start of an increased risk of cognitive decline in women.
The results of this study were published in the journal Diabetologia.

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