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Alzheimer’s Disease – Diabetes in the Brain?


An Alzheimer’s brain

Alzheimer’s disease is typically associated with numerous tangles and plaque in the brain.  Of particular concern is that the exact cause of these abnormalities has been hard to pin down. Now, we may be closer to an answer.

In many respects, Alzheimer’s is a form of diabetes. Even in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain’s ability to metabolize sugar is reduced. Especially relevant is that insulin plays a big role in aiding the take up sugar from the blood. Since in Alzheimer’s, insulin is not very effective, the brain cells practically starve to  death.

How is Alzheimer’s like diabetes?

These days, most people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes mellitus.  Basically, cells throughout the body become resistant to insulin signals. To encourage cells to take up more sugar from the blood, the pancreas increases the output of insulin.  The high levels of insulin could damage small blood vessels and eventually lead to poor brain circulation. Therefore, this problem could partly explain why Type 2 diabetes harms the brain. In Alzheimer’s, the parts that deal with memory and personality, become resistant to insulin.

Why does the brain need insulin?

Insulin stimulates cells to take up glucose or sugar, and metabolize it to make energy.  In addition, insulin is very important for making chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These are needed for neurons to communicate with each other. Insulin also stimulates many functions that are needed to form new memories and conquer tasks that require learning and memory.

Where does the insulin come from?

Sensitive tests showed that insulin is made in the brain and is the same as that produced in the pancreas. This point may seem surprising. However, if you consider the fact that every other gut hormone is also made in the brain, it only makes sense that insulin would be among them. Insulin that’s made by the pancreas and present in blood, does get into the brain as well.

More information

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