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Two-decade study finds that insulin resistance may lead to accelerated cognitive decline

by , 17 May 2017
Two-decade study finds that insulin resistance may lead to accelerated cognitive decline
Breakthrough! A new study by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel has found a link between insulin resistance - caused in part by physical inactivity and obesity - and accelerated cognitive decline.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects with insulin resistance experienced a more rapid decline in memory and executive function. Read on for the full scoop.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University find a relationship between insulin resistance and accelerated cognitive decline
The study was led jointly by Professor David Tanne and Professor Uri Goldbourt and conducted by Miri Lutski – all of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine.
 
They explained that insulin resistance is essentially a condition in which cells are unable to respond normally to the insulin hormone. As a result, condition prevents fat, muscle and liver cells from properly absorbing glucose, which leads to higher levels of insulin to usher glucose into its cells.
 
In the long run, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to prediabetes and a number of other serious health problems.
 
To reach their findings, the team followed 500 patients with existing cardiovascular disease for over two decades. They use the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) to test the patients’ baseline insulin resistance, which were calculated using fasting insulin and fasting blood glucose levels.

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They then assessed the patients’ cognitive functions using a computerised battery of tests that examined memory, visual spatial processing, attention and executive function. Fifteen years after the start of the study and then again five years after that, they did follow-up assessments on the patients.
 
The study discovered that patients who placed in the top quarter of the HOMA index were at heightened risk for accelerated cognitive decline poor cognitive performance compared with those in the remaining three quarters of the index. The results remained the same after adjusting for established cardiovascular risk factors and potentially cofounding factors.
 
“This study lends support for more research to test the cognitive benefits of interventions such as exercise, diet, and medications that improve insulin resistance in order to prevent dementia,” Professor Tanne said.
 

Researchers are hopeful that their findings will help to identify a group of individuals at increased risk of cognitive decline in older age

“These are exciting findings because they may help to identify a group of individuals at increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older age,” Professor Tanne said.
 
“We know that insulin resistance can be prevented and treated by lifestyle changes and certain insulin-sensitizing drugs. Exercising, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet, and watching your weight will help you prevent insulin resistance and, as a result, protect your brain as you get older,” he added.
 
The team is currently studying the non-vascular and vascular mechanisms by which insulin resistance may affect cognitive function.

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