The diabetes drugs pioglitazone and metformin can reduce the risk of developing dementia, according to a new study.
Patients with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing dementia, so neurologist Michael Heneka, along with demographers Anne Frink and Gabriele Doblhammer assessed how anti-diabetic medication affected this risk.
Their study involved evaluating data on diseases and medication between 2004 and 2010, taken from AOK, a German public health insurance company. 145,000 people were included, aged 60 and older.
Pioglitazone, which works by enhancing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, was found to significantly reduce the risk of dementia. Doblhammer added: “The longer the treatment, the lower the risk.”
The research team was not surprised with these findings, with Heneka explaining: “Pioglitazone is an anti-inflammatory drug that also inhibits the deposition of harmful proteins in the brain.”
Metformin, a type 2 diabetes drug which lowers blood glucose levels, was also found to reduce one’s dementia risk, but this risk reduction was less than that of pioglitazone.
Heneka’s team report they do not fully understand why this happens, and whether pioglitazone has protective qualities for non-diabetics as well as diabetics.
“The next logical step would therefore be clinical studies. These studies would specifically investigate the effect of pioglitazone and other antidiabetics on dementia,” Heneka concluded.

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