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Current research indicates that there may be a link between developing diabetes in middle age and developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Elina Rönnemaa, MD, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, reports on a study of 2,269 men in Sweden who, at 50, were tested for diabetes. During an average follow up of 32 years, 4½ percent of the participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, 2½ percent diagnosed with vascular dementia, and approximately 10 percent were identified with other types of dementia or cognitive impairment.

Men with low insulin secretion capacity at age 50 were nearly 1½ times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than individuals without insulin problems. The risk remained significant regardless of blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and education. One possible reason for the diabetes/Alzheimer’s connection may be that insulin problems damage blood vessels in the brain, which leads to memory problems.

Surprisingly, those missing the gene APOE4–which has been associated with an increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease–had the greatest association between diabetes and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.