Hilarious stupidity from an Alzheimer's disease study

Third Rail

Ready for type 3 diabetes?

For most people, type 2 diabetes usually doesn’t show up on their personal radar until middle age. Then it hits like a brick: Combine a poor diet with little or no exercise, and the resulting insulin insensitivity puts your health at grave risk.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, another brick comes sailing out of the blue: Those same bad habits, if continued throughout middle age and beyond, may prompt type 3 diabetes – better known by its dreaded name: Alzheimer’s.

Tangled up brain

The concept of Alzheimer’s disease as a form of diabetes was originally proposed by German neuroscientists back in the 1990s. More recently, in 2005, two published studies from Brown Medical School revealed that the brain produces insulin, and insulin levels tend to drop dramatically in Alzheimer’s patients.

Brown researcher Dr. Suzanne de la Monte told HealthDay News, “Many of the unexplained features of Alzheimer’s, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, appear to be linked to abnormalities in insulin signaling.”

When I checked in with HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., to get his take on AD as a third form of diabetes, he called it a “fascinating theory.”

Dr. Spreen: “Not being an endocrinologist (most of whom I bet would say ‘no way’) I’d have to say, ‘Why not?’ The long-term adverse effects of sugar (or, perhaps, refined carbs) are diverse and insidious – why wouldn’t a few be aimed at the brain?

“My only input would be that Alzheimer’s is a multi-faceted syndrome of various causes: aluminum, heavy metals, toxins, arteriosclerosis, chronic dehydration, malnutrition, blood sugar abnormalities, and any combinations of the above.”

Safe to say, the final word on this type 3 diabetes theory won’t be written for years to come. Meanwhile – brace yourself (and your brain) – here come the drug salesmen.

We’ve got a winner!

Want to have some connect-the-dots fun? I promise, this will pay off with some hilarious stupidity.

Okay. Let’s start with a recent study that investigated the Alzheimer’s-as-type-3-diabetes theory. In most Alzheimer’s patients, memory is corrupted by a buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. So when researchers at Northwestern University treated rat nerve cells with insulin, they were encouraged to find that the effects of amyloid protein plaques were blocked.

After applying insulin, the NU team added Avandia (a diabetes drug that promotes insulin sensitivity), which increased the effect of the insulin.

So here’s how Reuters Health put a magnificently optimistic spin on this research…

In the first paragraph we’re told that insulin appears to “shield the brain” from the effects of amyloid proteins. That word “appears” provides a LOT of wiggle room. Let’s get real: Shielding rat nerve cells in a lab is a long, long way from shielding “the brain” – as in “your brain” or even a “rat brain.”

Then paragraph two takes a little detour for what reads like a commercial message: “And they said GlaxoSmithKline’s diabetes drug Avandia, or rosiglitazone, which increases sensitivity to insulin, appeared to enhance this protective effect.”

Perfect! Now you know the name of the drug, the generic name of the drug, AND the name of the company that makes the drug. So you’re all set to go to your doctor and ask if protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s by combining insulin and Avandia is right for you.

Ready for the payoff?

According to a warning on the Avandia website, the drug can cause or worsen heart failure. And then this: “Avandia may increase your risk of other heart problems that occur when there is reduced blood flow to the heart, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack (myocardial infarction). This risk appeared higher in patients taking medicines called nitrates or insulin.”

Is it too early to say we’ve already found the worst study of the year?

You can read all about the significant dangers of Avandia in the e-Alert “Catching Up” (5/29/07).

“Insulin Protects Brain from Alzheimer’s: US Study” Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters Health, 2/3/09, reutershealth.com
“Alzheimer’s Could Be Diabetes-Like Illness, Study Suggests” Steven Reinberg, HealthDay News, 11/30/05, news.yahoo.com