Type 2 diabetes may increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

Individuals with type 2 diabetes may be significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they grow older, according to a new study from a team of Japanese researchers.

The findings could have implications for the importance of blood sugar control among diabetics. Results from the study indicated that those who had the poorest regulation of glucose were the most likely to develop the condition. Prior research has already connected unchecked blood sugar to other complications like heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage.

For the study, researchers from Kyusha University in Fukuok, Japan tested the blood sugar levels of 1,017 individuals over the age of 60. After an average of 11 years, the team then tested participants’ cognitive abilities.

The team reported in the journal Neurology that 27 percent of individuals who initially tested positive for diabetes went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease before the end of the study. For comparison, only about 20 percent of those who did not have diabetes experienced cognitive problems.

These results held true even after the researchers accounted for other individual factors like smoking, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Given the rising numbers of individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes, the researchers said doctors will need to pay more attention to patients’ cognitive health in order to avoid millions of new cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

"Our findings emphasize the need to consider diabetes as a potential risk factor for dementia," said Yutaka Kiyohara, MD, PhD, the study’s leader. "Diabetes is a common disorder, and the number of people with it has been growing in recent years all over the world. Controlling diabetes is now more important than ever."