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World J Diabetes. 2014 Dec 15;5(6):889-93. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v5.i6.889.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer's disease.

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Mario Barbagallo, Ligia J Dominguez, Geriatric Unit, Department DIBIMIS, University of Palermo, 90127 Palermo, Italy.


Epidemiological and biological evidences support a link between type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Persons with diabetes have a higher incidence of cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing all types of dementia. Cognitive deficits in persons with diabetes mainly affect the areas of psychomotor efficiency, attention, learning and memory, mental flexibility and speed, and executive function. The strong epidemiological association has suggested the existence of a physiopathological link. The determinants of the accelerated cognitive decline in DM2, however, are less clear. Increased cortical and subcortical atrophy have been evidenced after controlling for diabetic vascular disease and inadequate cerebral circulation. Most recent studies have focused on the role of insulin and insulin resistance as possible links between diabetes and AD. Disturbances in brain insulin signaling mechanisms may contribute to the molecular, biochemical, and histopathological lesions in AD. Hyperglycemia itself is a risk factor for cognitive dysfunction and dementia. Hypoglycemia may also have deleterious effects on cognitive function. Recurrent symptomatic and asymptomatic hypoglycemic episodes have been suggested to cause sub-clinical brain damage, and permanent cognitive impairment. Future trials are required to clarify the mechanistic link, to address the question whether cognitive decline may be prevented by an adequate metabolic control, and to elucidate the role of drugs that may cause hypoglycemic episodes.


Aging; Alzheimer; Cognitive decline; Dementia; Hyperglycemia; Hypoglycemia; Insulin; Mild cognitive impairment; Type 2 diabetes

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