Type 1 diabetes. Yep. Heard of it.
Type 2 diabetes. Check. I am familiar with that, too.
Type 3 diabetes? Uh. . . what?
A relatively newly discovered type of diabetes that is associated with the degenerative brain disease known as Alzheimer’s is what is being termed “type 3 diabetes.” In fact, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease originating from Rhode Island Hospital (RIH), determined that Alzheimer’s exhibits brain insulin resistance and inflammation—resulting in calling this phenomenon “type 3 diabetes.”
You heard right. The brain produces insulin in a way that’s similar to the pancreas. With type 3 diabetes, however, the brain produces lower-than-normal brain insulin. And once the brain is deprived of adequate insulin, the brain cells eventually die, causing memory loss and other degenerative diseases.
The primary person responsible for identifying this connection between insulin and brain health is Dr. Suzanne de la Monte from RIH. Her research indicated that diabetes is closely associated with many of the key neuronal components that accompany dementia. In fact, the findings showed that Alzheimer’s progresses due to the brain developing insulin resistance, which also prevents proper fat metabolism in the brain. After a while, these fats build up in the brain, and this results in increasing amounts of inflammation and stress, along with the symptoms of dementia.
Dr. de la Monte says, “This study points out that once AD (Alzheimer's Disease) is established, therapeutic efforts should target several different pathways—not just one. The reason is that a positive feedback loop gets going, making AD progress. We have to break the vicious cycle. Restoring insulin responsiveness and insulin depletion will help, but we need to reduce brain stress and repair the metabolic problems that cause the brain to produce toxins."
A research team from Northwestern University explains that insulin can serve to prevent or slow memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s by protecting the brain synapses that are responsible for memory. Those with Alzheimer’s typically are either insulin resistant or have lower levels of insulin. Going into further detail, they say that the reason memory fails when there’s an insulin shortage is because something called amyloid beta-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) destroy the receptors in the brain primarily reserved for insulin—thereby making those receptors insulin resistant. And without the space for insulin, the receptors can’t connect, resulting in memory loss.
Interestingly, there are conflicting thoughts surrounding this “new” type of diabetes. Some are quick to say that cholesterol-lowering drugs or diabetes drugs can help. For example, some believe that statins could play a role in keeping Alzheimer’s from progressing or that diabetes drugs could help, since this is supposedly a form of diabetes.
However, statins are said to increase the incidence of Alzheimer’s by starving the brain of needed cholesterol while also actually promoting diabetes. By the way, it’s estimated that one out of every four American’s aged 55+ is currently taking statins. Instead of statins and diabetes drugs, a low-carb and healthy high-fat diet is suggested, since the brain needs healthy fats—such as coconut oil and healthy sources of cholesterol—to function properly.
The American Diabetes Association states that there’s no “standard definition” for type 3 diabetes, but it’s often referred to as “double diabetes,” including those with type 1 diabetes who also show signs of insulin resistance—which is a major symptom of type 2 diabetes.
What’s referred to as type 3 diabetes is not fully understood yet, either, but with more than 115 million new cases of Alzheimer’s projected globally over the next 40 or so years and the belief that people with diabetes have an increased risk—up to 65 percent—of suffering from Alzheimer’s, you can bet there will be more studies and research aimed at it. So, stay tuned.