Alzheimer's Disease and Insulin Resistance Link Found at ISU

Jul 27, 2015

Researchers at Iowa State University say they’ve found a link between insulin resistance and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Insulin regulates blood sugar throughout the body. In brains of Alzheimer’s patients, blood sugar use tends to be lower in areas that generate memories, especially regarding times, dates, names and facts.

According to a new study by ISU’s Auriel Willette and Barbara Bendlin from the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, insulin resistance may not only predispose someone to Alzheimer’s, but it also affects a cognitively normal person’s memory function.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, looked at 150 late middle-aged adults who were at risk for Alzheimer's disease, but exhibited no sign of memory loss. 

Scans showed that patients with higher levels of insulin resistance also used less blood sugar in areas of their brain most susceptible to Alzheimer's. The brains using less insulin, had less energy to function and rely information. 

"Having more insulin resistance is actually related to having more memory problems, problems being able to engage in flexible kinds of thinking," says Willette. "It's impacting how we think, how we feel, how we function."

If you are insulin resistant, Willette advises moderate exercise and using an intranasal insulin spray, which studies suggest may help the brain better absorb and use blood sugar.