Dr. Eugene Opie was an American physician and pathologist who lived from 1873 to 1971.
Early in his career, Dr. Opie discovered something that, a century later, could help millions of people…
In the pancreas of many of his patients with type 2 diabetes, Dr. Opie saw some unusual-looking protein deposits that looked very similar to those found in the brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
Known as islet amyloid, these proteins were made up of tiny protein threads known as fibrils.
The role of these fibrils has been researched for many years. In people with diabetes, they destroy insulin-producing cells.
More recently, by building three-dimensional models of these protein fibrils, researchers have been able to make some startling connections between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, connections that could help solve the mysteries that remain behind both diseases.
Visual evidence of the Alzheimer’s/diabetes connection
There is a lot of research suggesting a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
While the connection isn’t yet fully understood, many studies have suggested that someone with type 2 diabetes has a greater chance than average of developing Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia.
In 2017, German scientists achieved a visual confirmation of this connection…
They constructed a 3-D model of a fibril made of islet amyloid polypeptide, or IAPP, the protein that has been found in the brains of diabetes patients.
When placed side by side with beta-amyloid fibrils under an electron microscope, the similarities are striking (beta-amyloid is a classic sign of Alzheimer’s).
Both fibrils have individual molecules stacked on one another that, in cross-section, form an S-shape.
This visual evidence of the Alzheimer’s/diabetes connection has implications for drug development to treat both diseases and has caught the attention of Dr. Wolfgang Hoyer of Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany.
“Inhibitors can now be developed… in a targeted manner to suppress the formation of the fibrils,” he says.
More evidence of the Alzheimer’s/diabetes connection
There have been other clues that Alzheimer’s and diabetes may be related.
“There is an epidemiological correlation between Alzheimer’s and diabetes: Alzheimer’s patients have a greater risk of contracting diabetes and vice versa,” says Dr. Hoyer.
In other words, statistically speaking, these two diseases often occur together. Scientists have even found small amounts of IAPP peptides that are typical of diabetes in the amyloid deposits of Alzheimer’s patients.
And, diabetes is known to increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a decline in memory and cognitive function that is noticeable but does not yet interfere with daily living. Mild cognitive impairment often precedes the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
How to prevent diabetes
There are definitely lifestyle changes and habits that will help you avoid diabetes, and thus lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Watch your weight. Obesity and metabolic syndrome are two of the surest ways to head down the road to diabetes.
- Lay off the sugar and carbs. A treat once in a while is fine. But drinking unsweetened fruit juice or, even better, water rather than soda is the way to go.
- Exercise. A 2019 Mayo Clinic study found that moderate resistance training can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Eat fiber. A high-fiber diet has been linked to lowered risk of diabetes. Soluble fibers improve digestion and help remove sugar from the blood. Think fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds — all part of a Mediterranean style of eating.
- 5. Get enough Vitamin D. It helps manage blood sugar levels.
- Manage stress. Believe it or not, high and constant stress levels contribute to your risk of diabetes, too!
New indication of a link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes — Medical Express
Diabetes and Alzheimer’s linked — Mayo Clinic
18 ways to help prevent diabetes — Diabetic News
Association of muscular strength and incidence of type 2 diabetes — Mayo Clinic Proceedings