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Impaired Glucose Uptake in the Brain May Increase Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

Aug 7, 2015

Insulin resistance associated with a lower regional cerebral glucose metabolism, worsened memory performance…

A recent study published in JAMA on July 27th evaluated 150 cognitively normal male and female adults with an average age of nearly 61 years old. Data collected from the patients included cognitive testing, fasting blood glucose levels and PET scan imaging.

Past cohort studies have already established a potential association between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease risk. Furthermore, insulin resistance may reduce tissue responsiveness, such as glucose uptake in the brain.

Researchers looked at other factors such as gender, BMI, apolipoprotein E4 genotyping, and family history. In the study, lower glucose metabolism was related to worse performance on both immediate and delayed memory scores.

The authors concluded that insulin resistance was associated with a significantly lower regional cerebral glucose metabolism and worsened memory performance.

This study sheds important light on the potential mechanistic explanation for how insulin resistance may lead to a disease such as Alzheimer’s. While only 4.7% of the patients in this study had diagnosed type 2 diabetes, researchers were still able to show the impact of insulin resistance on glucose uptake and memory.

As we continue to search for ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in late-midlife adulthood, evidence is pointing toward targeting insulin signaling mechanisms and finding treatments to lower peripheral insulin resistance for maintaining neural glucose metabolism and cognitive function.

Practice Pearls:

  • Scientists sought to find a connection between insulin resistance, neural glucose uptake and cognitive function.
  • Insulin resistance was associated with significantly lower cerebral glucose metabolism and worsened memory performance.
  • These results suggest finding treatments for lowering peripheral insulin resistance may help late-midlife adults maintain better cognitive function and glucose metabolism.

Willette, Auriel A., Barbara B. Bendlin, Erika J. Starks, et al. “Association of Insulin Resistance With Cerebral Glucose Uptake in Late Middle–Aged Adults at Risk for Alzheimer Disease.” JAMA Neurol (2015). Web. 31 July 2015.