Scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that insulin spray improved gait, and cognitive function in patients with and without type 2 diabetes.
The research is published in the Journal of Neurology and was conducted by Vera Novak et al.
An estimated 25 percent of people older than 65 have type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body cannot produce enough insulin to effectively manage blood sugar.
Insulin plays an important role in the brain, and people with prediabetes and diabetes are at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
Delivering insulin to the brain intranasally—atomized and sprayed through the nose—has been shown to improve verbal memory and has emerged as a potential treatment for cognitive decline in the elderly.
In the study, the team enrolled 223 participants ages 50 to 85-years-old with and without diabetes and assessed their normal and dual-task walking speeds, attention, memory, executive function, and mood.
Half of the participants with diabetes and half without diabetes were treated with insulin spray once daily. The other participants were given an inactive placebo (sterile saline) spray.
The team found that insulin spray increased the walking speed, increased cerebral blood flow, and decreased plasma insulin in participants with type 2 diabetes.
It also improved decision-making and verbal memory in trial participants without the disease and those with pre-diabetes.
The findings suggest intranasal insulin should be further tested for its possible utility as a treatment for type 2 diabetes as well as a treatment for age-related functional decline.
The team says walking speed is an important clinical predictor of well-being in the elderly that correlates with cognitive decline, hospitalizations, disability, and death.
With 96 million adult Americans and an increasing number of younger people having pre-diabetes, this finding on the beneficial effect of INI deserves more attention and definitive confirmation in a larger trial.
The treatment was not associated with any serious or moderate adverse events. Insulin spray treatment was safe in participants with type 2 diabetes treated with subcutaneous insulins.
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