Controlling type 2 diabetes with medication may help prevent people from developing Alzheimer’s or slow the progression of the condition, researchers have said.
A study carried out by the University of Southern California (USC) has found that Alzheimer’s disease developed 1.6 times faster in those who had untreated diabetes, when compared to those who did not have the condition.
The team looked at the health data of 1,289 participants from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which included brain scans, memory tests, and biomarker tests for diabetes and vascular disease.
Around 900 individuals, of that 54 people had type 2 diabetes but were not receiving medication and 67 were being treated. A total of 530 had normal blood glucose levels while 250 had prediabetes.
The trial involved looking at changes in the brain which usually indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers focused on comparing tau pathology, a process associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Tangles of tau proteins can combine with sticky beta-amyloid plaques that disrupt signals between brain cells. The disruption can lead to impaired memory and brain function.
Dr Daniel Natio, a psychologist at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said: “Our findings emphasise the importance of catching diabetes or other metabolic diseases in adults as early as you can.
“Among people with diabetes, the difference in their rate of developing the signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s is clearly tied somehow to whether or not they are on medication for it.
“It is possible that the medicines for treating diabetes might make a difference in the progression of brain degeneration. But it’s unclear how exactly those medications might slow or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, so that is something we need to investigate.”
The study findings have been published in the Diabetes Care journal.

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