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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes: New Links to Alzheimer's

Researchers Say Diabetes Drugs Could Help Treat Alzheimer's Disease

Tight Control of Blood Sugar May Also Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's

Another new study presented here showed that people who already have type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers, including Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente's division of research in Oakland, Calif., report that people with diabetes who had very poor blood sugar control had the greatest risk, but "effective blood sugar control may lower risk of another diabetes-associated complication -- dementia," they conclude in a written statement.

Treatment Potential

More good news is that a class of drugs commonly used to treat diabetes called thiazolidinediones may also influence inflammation and other brain cell processes that may be related to Alzheimer's disease. Drugs in this class include Avandia and Actos and they help insulin work better in the muscle and liver to use blood sugar and also reduce sugar production in the liver.

Donald Miller, ScD from Boston University School of Public Health and colleagues report that people with diabetes treated with these medications had lower rates of Alzheimer's disease than counterparts taking insulin. In fact, there were almost 20% fewer new cases of Alzheimer's among people taking thiazolidinediones compared with people who took insulin. Similar results were found in a separate comparison between thiazolidinediones users and people starting Glucophage, another drug used to treat diabetes.

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