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Insulin to Delay Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease, like cancer, is a social phenomenon: We all know someone, or at least have the experience of knowing someone, who knows someone who has had the disease. So when articles begin to be written suggesting a treatment that may delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, that’s big news. Today we will have a brief summary of what this discovery is all about.


Suzanne Craft and her colleagues published the results of a pilot study indicating that “a nasal spray form of insulin, used daily for 4 months, stabilized or improved cognition, function, and cerebral glucose metabolism in adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease” (Megan Brooks, Medscape Medical News, Intranasal Insulin Promising for MCI, Alzheimer’s Disease).


Susan Brooks, PhD, (et al), of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care Center System, in Seattle, Washington published their findings on September, 12, 2011 in the Archives of Neurology, with some of the results disclosed in a presentation at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 2010.


It is known that “insulin abnormalities contribute to the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s Disease. Insulin levels and insulin activity in the central nervous system (CNS) are reduced in Alzheimer’s disease; therefore, restoring insulin to normal levels in the brain may provide therapeutic benefit in adults with Alzheimer’s disease.


The study included a group of 104 people divided into three equal groups: one receiving a placebo, one receiving 20 international units of aerosolized insulin a day, and one receiving 40 international units a day. Brain cells require insulin, and conditions such as diabetes and untreated high blood pressure, deplete the body of insulin, thus increasing the risks of developing or progressing Alzheimer’s disease.


Dr. Crafts found that the most effective means to get additional insulin to the brain, and not to the rest of the body (which did not need more insulin), was directly to the brain – in this case, through the nose in the form of an aerosol injection.


The results, though not conclusive at this time, were promising. The group receiving the 20 international units of insulin a day showed “improvement in delayed memory and preserved general cognition compared with placebo.” (Nancy Walsh, Staff Writer, MedPage Today, Insulin Nasal Spray May Slow Alzheimer’s Disease, September 12, 2011).


These results will undoubtedly spur on more aggressive research in this field. And as we all know, research requires funding and support.


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