Type 3 Diabetes (Alzheimer’s)

“Diabetes medication could treat Alzheimer’s!”

Type 3 Diabetes is a title that has been proposed for Alzheimer’s disease which results from resistance to insulin in the brain. Type 3 Diabetes which is regarded as “brain” specific Diabetes is a dangerous Diabetes hybrid that was first discovered in 2005.

Studies carried out by the research team at Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University identified the possibility of a new form of Diabetes after finding that insulin resistance can occur in the brain. The researchers pinpoint resistance to insulin and insulin-like growth factor as being a key part of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

When it comes to the body, insulin is responsible for helping to convert food to energy. The brain uses insulin too, and it is believed that insulin’s primary purpose in the brain is to form memories at synapses (the spaces where cells in the brain communicate). Neurons save space for insulin receptors; insulin makes way for memories to form. In order for the brain to keep making more brain cells, it needs insulin.

A problem with insulin production in the brain is thought to result in the formation of protein “plaque”, not unlike that which is found among sufferers of Type 1 Diabetes (insulin-dependant) and Type 2 Diabetes (insulin-resistant). But in the case of Type 3 Diabetes, plaque appears in the brain and leads to memory loss and problems forming memories.

In short, the brain does not receive the energy it needs to form memories.

Researchers have discovered that many Type 2 Diabetics have deposits of a protein called amyloid beta in their pancreas, which is similar to the protein deposits found in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

As a conclusion people over the age of 60 who have insulin resistance, in particular those with Type 2 Diabetes have an increased risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, estimated to be between 50% and 65% higher.

In fact, it has been proposed that Alzheimer’s disease could be known as Type 3 Diabetes, because insulin resistance in the brain is a key part of its progression.

Diabetes is also linked to memory loss more generally. Over time, the prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels – caused by a lack of insulin production or ineffective insulin – can damage the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that deals with concentration, attention, memory, and information processing.

Nobody knows exactly why Type 2 Diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Some research indicates that it is due to damage to the small blood vessels that feed cells and nerves caused by Diabetes.

According to a research team at Northwestern University, insulin may prevent or slow memory loss among those with Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the synapses that form memory. Those with the disease tend to have lower insulin levels and are insulin-resistant.

The team found that the reason memory fails when insulin shortage occurs is because Amyloid beta-Derived Diffusible Ligands (ADDLs) destroy the receptors in the brain that typically are reserved for insulin, thus making the receptors insulin-resistant. Without the space for insulin, receptors cannot connect, and memory loss occurs.

In the past years researchers also discovered that Diabetes medication could treat Alzheimer’s.

Researchers are also testing Diabetes medication as potential treatments for the neurodegenerative disease.

As it is today, Diabetes Type 3 is not completely understood. Diagnosis and treatments remain in the early stages, and mores studies are required in order to fully understand how to help those with Diabetes Type 3 Diabetes, as well as its connection to Alzheimer’s and dementia.


Researched, collected and written by Zsolt Szemerszky

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