Diabetes in youth linked to increased Alzheimer’s risk

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A new study from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has uncovered alarming evidence that young people with diabetes may face a significantly heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

The research, conducted by the Lifecourse Epidemiology of Adiposity and Diabetes (LEAD) Center, was recently published in the journal Endocrines.

The study reveals that individuals diagnosed with diabetes during their childhood or teenage years exhibit early signs of neurodegeneration, which are often associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Allison Shapiro, Ph.D., MPH, the lead researcher and an assistant professor of pediatrics and endocrinology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, emphasized the importance of these findings.

She stated, “Preliminary evidence shows that preclinical Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology is present in young people with youth-onset diabetes. This suggests the potential for an early-onset AD risk trajectory in this population.”

This study is among the first to examine the link between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes in a younger demographic, diverging from the usual focus on individuals over 40.

Typically, research has shown that people over 40 with diabetes are 60-80% more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s, compared to their non-diabetic peers.

The researchers analyzed data from approximately 80 individuals, including both those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnosed in youth, as well as a control group without diabetes.

The participants were originally part of the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, a comprehensive, multi-center study aimed at tracking diabetes in young Americans.

Key findings from the University of Colorado study include higher levels of blood biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s and increased accumulation of amyloid proteins in brain regions affected by AD among young people with diabetes.

Amyloid proteins are commonly associated with the development of Alzheimer’s, as they can clump together and form plaques that disrupt brain function.

The rising rates of obesity among young Americans further complicate this issue.

About 20% of young people in the U.S. are now obese, which not only increases the risk of developing diabetes but also contributes to inflammation, another factor linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“This is a wake-up call regarding the health trajectories we are likely to see in the future,” said Shapiro. “We are about to enter into a different world of healthcare because of the obesity epidemic among young people. We are now seeing more aging-related diseases in young people.”

Shapiro and her colleagues at the LEAD Center and the University of Colorado Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center plan to continue their research by following this group as they age. The goal is to better understand the risk factors and potentially offer earlier interventions.

The findings also suggest that cognitive testing, commonly considered only for older adults with diabetes, might be beneficial for younger individuals as well.

Shapiro noted, “The field of diabetes care is beginning to recognize the importance of cognitive testing as part of clinical follow-up. It should be something we consider in youth-onset diabetes as well.”

This research underscores the importance of early detection and management of diabetes in young people, not only for their immediate health but also for potentially preventing severe neurological conditions in the future.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Oral cannabis extract may help reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and results showing flavonoid-rich foods could improve survival in Parkinson’s disease.

The research findings can be found in Endocrines.

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