People with type 2 diabetes are less likely to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) than people without type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
The study, conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in Bosto, found consistent links between type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of ALS, but the researchers could not deduce why.
ALS is a crippling neurodegenerative disease that destroys the nerve cells both in the brain and the spinal cord. Around 50 per cent of ALS patients die within three years of being diagnosed. ALS is currently something of a mystery to researchers, with little known about why it develops or how to treat it.
“We found a protective association between type 2 diabetes and ALS,” said lead author Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou. “The findings have been really consistent across several studies. We don’t know why there is this association.”
The researchers were keen to stress that they did not know why there was a correlation between type 2 diabetes and ALS risk. The results do not prove that developing type 2 diabetes will prevent the onset of ALS. In others words, they do not suggest that having type 2 diabetes is a good thing. Rather, they are simply an observation that type 2 diabetes often coincides with a lower likelihood of ALS.
Further research may reveal a causational relationship between type 2 diabetes and ALS. Working out why such a relationship exists could lead to improved treatments for both conditions.
A lower risk of ALS was specifically associated with type 2 diabetes, rather than obesity, which is one of the leading risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Correlations have also been found between high cholesterol and a lower risk of ALS.
“We don’t know if the effects of diabetes is related to those factors or something else. We have some theories, but until they are tested they are only theories,” said Kioumourtzoglou.
The study used data from 3,650 Danish people who were diagnosed with ALS, with an average age of 65. These results were then compared with 365,000 people without ALS. The researchers identified 9,294 patients with diabetes; 55 of them were later diagnosed with ALS.
“Our findings provide some additional support on the idea that energy metabolism plays an important role in ALS pathogenesis,” said Kioumourtzoglou. “The specific underlying mechanisms of our observed association between diabetes and ALS are currently unknown. Therefore, the immediate clinical implications are not necessarily clear.”
Although the results are highly inconclusive, they offer a lot of promise for both type 2 diabetes and ALS treatment.
“With every new study, we are one step closer in understanding ALS.”

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

NHS Diet Advice for Diabetes

In the UK, current 2022 NHS diabetes diet advice is that there…

Insulin Dosing Errors in Hospital

Insulin dosing errors in hospital should be rare but have been found…