A strong association between insulin resistance and decline of memory function increases the risk for Alzheimer's disease, says a new study.
This is the first study to look at insulin resistance in late middle-aged people, identify a pattern of decreased blood sugar-use related to Alzheimer's and link that to memory decline.
"Insulin resistance is common in people who are obese, pre-diabetic or have Type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Auriel Willette, Iowa State University.
The team examined brain scans in 150 late middle-aged adults, who were at risk for Alzheimer's disease, but showed no sign of memory loss. The scans detected if people with higher levels of insulin resistance used less blood sugar in areas of the brain most susceptible to Alzheimer's, explained the study outlined in the Journal JAMA Neurology
"This is important with Alzheimer's disease, because over the course of the disease there is a progressive decrease in the amount of blood sugar used in certain brain regions. Those regions end up using less and less. The link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer's disease is important for prevention, but the risk is much more immediate", said Willette.
Problems regulating blood sugar may impact cognitive function at any age. Testing for insulin resistance in obese patients and taking corrective action, through improved nutrition and moderate exercise, is a crucial first step.
"Following those who are at-risk through the different stages of dementia and Alzheimer's will offer insight as to what happens as their cognitive function declines," said Willette.