Scientists in Japan have revealed further evidence that diabetes increases the risk of dementia, opening the door to new treatments against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Hisayama Study followed 1,017 elderly residents in the town of Hisayama, Japan. Each resident took an initial sugar tolerance test to recognise signs of diabetes. They were then followed up over 15 years, during which time 232 had developed dementia. Scientists found that residents who had diabetes at the beginning of the study were twice as likely to develop dementia as those who didn’t.
Even after researchers accounted for other factors such as smoking and blood pressure, diabetes still increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
The findings will be published today in the journal Neurology.
Dr Christian Hölscher, an expert in diabetes and dementia at Ulster University, is funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK to investigate how diabetes drugs may be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
He stressed the importance of the findings, saying:
“The methods used in this study are a big advance on those used previously and are important in demonstrating that diabetes is indeed a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
“The findings support the idea that we are working on in Ulster - that drugs currently used to treat diabetes could benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These results are very promising and support previous evidence that diabetes is a risk factor for dementia. We are excited to fund research in this area, and we hope findings will inspire the larger clinical trials needed to understand the full potential of diabetes drugs in treating dementia.
“With over 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and that number set to rise, we are facing a growing dementia crisis. Increasing our understanding of the risk factors of dementia and potential new treatments is essential if we are to defeat this devastating disease.”