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The Takeaway: Study Shows Direct Link Between Alzheimer’s and Diabetes

A growing body of research suggests a strong link between type 2 diabetes and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Now a team of scientists from New Jersey and Northwestern Universities think they’ve figured out why.

One of the most significant brain changes in people with Alzheimer’s is an overabundance of something called the amyloid beta peptide, or abeta. The researchers found that patients with type 2 diabetes also showed abnormally high levels of abeta in their brains.

The results were striking,” said researcher Peter Frederikse. “Because we used diabetes as an instigator of the disease, our study shows – for the first time directly – the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes.”

Earlier this year, a large study out of Japan found that people with type 2 diabetes were about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and those with pre-diabetes had a 35 percent higher risk. But this new study is the first to show more than a correlational link and actually find similar brain processes going on in the brains of both Alzheimer’s and diabetes patients.

The researchers also found significant build-up of abeta in subjects’ retinas. Because the retina is much more accessible than the brain for diagnostic tests, this finding could mean a new way for doctors to test for Alzheimer’s disease.

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