Research suggests link between elevated blood sugar, Alzheimer's risk

May 6, 2013 by Alexis Blue, University of Arizona
UA researchers studied brain images of 124 cognitively normal, non-diabetic adults with a family history of Alzheimer's disease.

(Medical Xpress)—A new University of Arizona study, published in the journal Neurology, suggests a possible link between elevated blood sugar levels and risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

About 5 percent of men and women, ages 65 to 74, have Alzheimer's disease, and it is estimated that nearly half of those age 85 and older may have the disease, according to the U.S. . Among the known factors that contribute to the disease are age and genetics. Scientists also think that , and diabetes may increase risk.

Although the link between diabetes and Alzheimer's has been studied, UA researchers wondered if elevated levels in non-diabetic individuals also might indicate a higher risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

"There have been studies that have linked diabetes to Alzheimer's disease as a risk factor," said Alfred Kaszniak, UA professor of psychology and a co-author on the study. "What was not known when we began this work is whether that risk was only at levels of blood sugar that qualify for diagnoses of diabetes, or in the borderline or pre-diabetic range, or would we also see a relationship across the so-called normal range of ?"

The researchers used fluorodeoxyglucose (18F) positron , or FDG PET, a medical imaging technique that produces three-dimensional images of in the brain. Fasting serum glucose levels – blood sugar levels following several hours of not eating – are routinely acquired as part of the FDG PET protocol.

"When compared to those without the disease, Alzheimer's disease patients demonstrate a pattern of reduced in particular brain regions," explained Christine Burns, lead author on the study and a UA pre-doctoral student in psychology. "What we show is an association between elevated fasting serum glucose levels and a similar pattern of reduced metabolism in these same AD-related in cognitively healthy adults."

The researchers studied data on 124 cognitively normal, non-diabetic adults with a family history of Alzheimer's disease. The individuals, who ranged in age from 47 to 68, were among participants in a larger study, led by Dr. Eric Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, looking at a variety of Alzheimer's , including genetic risk.

The link between high blood sugar and reduced brain metabolism existed regardless of whether individuals carried the Apolipoprotein E4 gene variant, an established risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to suggesting a link between elevated and Alzheimer's risk in non-diabetic individuals, the study also shows promise for the use of brain imaging techniques like PET in identifying Alzheimer's risk and developing early preventative interventions, researchers say.

"Right now, if you want to develop a drug or evaluate some other kind of a preventive measure for Alzheimer's disease, the labor and expense is prohibitive," Kaszniak said. "If you recruit people who may be at some risk, but are 20 years away from developing signs of the illness, what drug company or governmental agency is going to fund research that follows people for 20 years to see whether something is effective in prevention?

"However, if you have a biologic marker, it suggests what areas you should really focus on in those very expensive longitudinal studies," he said.

Burns said she hopes the findings will inform ongoing work designed to help develop early Alzheimer's interventions.

"A lot of valuable research is focused on treatment and slowing decline in Alzheimer's patients," she said. "I'm interested in complementing this work with interventions that can be implemented earlier on, perhaps at middle age."

Explore further: Study reveals link between high cholesterol and Alzheimer's disease

More information: www.neurology.org/content/80/1 … bf-a3f2-0a4a2e9ae14d

Related Stories

Study reveals link between high cholesterol and Alzheimer's disease

September 12, 2011
People with high cholesterol may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the September 13, 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Recommended for you

Alzheimer's disease: Neuronal loss very limited

January 17, 2018
Frequently encountered in the elderly, Alzheimer's is considered a neurodegenerative disease, which means that it is accompanied by a significant, progressive loss of neurons and their nerve endings, or synapses. A joint ...

Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

January 12, 2018
A new study suggests an association between elevated amyloid beta levels and the worsening of anxiety symptoms. The findings support the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric symptoms could represent the early manifestation of ...

One of the most promising drugs for Alzheimer's disease fails in clinical trials

January 11, 2018
To the roughly 400 clinical trials that have tested some experimental treatment for Alzheimer's disease and come up short, we can now add three more.

Different disease types associated with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains found in Alzheimer's patients

January 9, 2018
An international team of researchers has found different disease type associations with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains in the brains of dead Alzheimer's patients. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National ...

Advances in brain imaging settle debate over spread of key protein in Alzheimer's

January 5, 2018
Recent advances in brain imaging have enabled scientists to show for the first time that a key protein which causes nerve cell death spreads throughout the brain in Alzheimer's disease - and hence that blocking its spread ...

Molecular mechanism behind HIV-associated dementia revealed

January 5, 2018
For the first time, scientists have identified and inhibited a molecular process that can lead to neurodegeneration in patients with HIV, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in Nature Communications.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.