Diabetes Self-Management Blog

People who take insulin and another diabetes drug may be at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer disease than those taking just one diabetes drug, according to a new study.

Previous studies have shown that people who have diabetes have a higher risk of getting Alzheimer disease than people who don’t. In fact, recent research into insulin resistance in the brain has prompted some experts to dub Alzheimer disease “Type 3 diabetes.”

The results of a new study about diabetes and Alzheimer disease were reported in late July at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease. In this study, researchers examined the brains of 248 elderly people who had died—124 had diabetes and 124 did not. The two groups were matched by age, sex, and how severe their dementia was (on average, dementia was moderate to severe). Within the group of people who had diabetes, 29 were not taking any diabetes drugs, 49 were taking insulin only, 28 were taking diabetes drugs other than insulin (mostly sulfonylureas), and 18 were taking insulin and another diabetes drug.

The researchers found that the people taking insulin and another drug had significantly fewer beta-amyloid plaques on their brains than any of the other groups. Beta-amyloid plaques on the brain are a sign of Alzheimer disease, though what role they play in its progression is not yet well understood.

One researcher who worked on the study hypothesized that, in people who are treated with an oral diabetes drug as well as insulin, the insulin may be more effective and therefore lower their risk for Alzheimer disease. And Michal Beeri, Ph.D., who led the study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, commented that “the combination of insulin and oral anti-diabetes medications may beneficially influence Alzheimer-related brain changes.”

However, Beeri also pointed out that the study was unable to conclude whether the combination treatment actually caused the reduction in plaques observed in the brain. Nevertheless, she said that the study’s findings may help scientists develop new treatments for Alzheimer disease.


  1. It’s never been clear to me whether this increased risk for Alzheimer’s applies to people with type 1 diabetes. Is it just an issue for those with insulin resistance?? I have type 1 - do I need to worry about Alzheimer’s too?

    Posted by suzanne |
  2. This article does not really clarify whether or not people with Type I diabetes can get Alzheimer’s or not. It is just stating what findings have been made, but doesn’t tell us whether or not we should be tested to see if we can develop Alzheimer’s. I have Alzheimer’s running in my family and I fear I will get it eventually, also. What are we supposed to do to find out?

    Posted by rebecca |
  3. Hi Suzanne and Rebecca,

    You raise some important questions.

    This article from the NY Times, though a couple of years old, gives a pretty good overview of the links that researchers have found between diabetes and Alzheimer disease. The research has focused heavily on Type 2 diabetes, since insulin resistance seems to be associated with Alzheimer risk.

    As for a Type 1-Alzheimer connection, I was able to find one animal study in which the brains of rats were examined for signs of Alzheimer disease after the rats had lived with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes for eight months. Changes were found in the brains of both groups of rats, but they were more severe in the Type 2 group. You can read the abstract of that study here.

    In any case, there is some evidence that steps you take to protect against other diabetes complications—controlling blood glucose levels, exercising, eating a healthy diet—can also help protect you against Alzheimer disease. Some studies have also shown benefit from eating a Mediterranean diet and omega-3 fatty acids; you can read more about them in “Studies Find Benefit for Fish and Omega-3 Consumption.”

    Posted by Tara Dairman, Web Editor |

Post a Comment

Note: All comments are moderated and there may be a delay in the publication of your comment. Please be on-topic and appropriate. Do not disclose personal information. Be respectful of other posters. Only post information that is correct and true to your knowledge. When referencing information that is not based on personal experience, please provide links to your sources. All commenters are considered to be nonmedical professionals unless explicitly stated otherwise. Promotion of your own or someone else's business or competing site is not allowed: Sharing links to sites that are relevant to the topic at hand is permitted, but advertising is not. Once submitted, comments cannot be modified or deleted by their authors. Comments that don't follow the guidelines above may be deleted without warning. Such actions are at the sole discretion of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. Comments are moderated Monday through Friday by the editors of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. The moderators are employees of Madavor Media, LLC., and do not report any conflicts of interest. A privacy policy setting forth our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of certain information relating to you and your use of this Web site can be found here. For more information, please read our Terms and Conditions.

Oral Medicines
Statins May Reduce Risk of Nerve Damage, Other Diabetes Complications (09/18/14)
New Metformin Combo Drug Approved for Type 2 Diabetes (08/13/14)
FDA Approves New Oral Drug for Type 2 Diabetes (08/07/14)
New SGLT Drugs Coming (07/23/14)

Insulin & Other Injected Drugs
New Weekly Type 2 Diabetes Drug Approved (09/26/14)
Dispelling the Myths of Insulin Therapy (08/01/14)
Insulin for Type 2 (07/14/14)
FDA Approves Inhalable Insulin (07/03/14)

Diabetic Complications
Statins May Reduce Risk of Nerve Damage, Other Diabetes Complications (09/18/14)
New Approach for Neuropathy Pain? (08/18/14)
Study Evaluating Treatment for Neuropathy Pain (07/08/14)
Good Control Now = Lifetime Benefit (06/25/14)

Diabetes Research
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)
Statins May Reduce Risk of Nerve Damage, Other Diabetes Complications (09/18/14)

Diabetes News
FDA Approves Remote Glucose-Monitoring Technology (10/24/14)
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)



Disclaimer of Medical Advice: You understand that the blog posts and comments to such blog posts (whether posted by us, our agents or bloggers, or by users) do not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs. The opinions and other information contained in the blog posts and comments do not reflect the opinions or positions of the Site Proprietor.