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Is Type 2 Diabetes Linked to Dementia Risk?

A study of 10,000 British civil servants shows that earlier diagnosis of type 2 diabetes increases the chance of developing dementia.
Is Type 2 Diabetes Linked to Dementia Risk?
Diabetes testing

Some experts who study Alzheimer disease have suggested that it is closely linked to the metabolic problems of diabetes. Alternatively, they have proposed a diabetes-related dementia may differ from classic Alzheimer disease in some important respects (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2019). Previous research suggested that drugs to treat type 2 diabetes, especially metformin, may delay the development of dementia. Could type 2 diabetes be linked to an increased dementia risk?

Dementia Risk Rises With Earlier Diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes:

A new study of British civil servants (Whitehall II) confirms that people with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of developing dementia (JAMA, April 27, 2021). The research began in 1985 and included more than 10,000 volunteers. Doctors examined these individuals approximately every four years until 2019.

During that time, 1700 people got a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. In addition, there were 639 cases of dementia. Analysis of these data shows that the risk of developing dementia rises as people get diabetes at younger ages. For instance, at age 70, people without diabetes had a dementia rate of 8.9 per 1,000. However, those who were diagnosed with diabetes before they turned 60 had a rate of dementia of 18.3 per 1,000.

The investigators conclude:

“younger age at onset of diabetes was significantly associated with higher risk of subsequent dementia.”

Learn More:

You may wish to listen to our interviews with Dr. Dale Bredesen to learn more about risk factors for Alzheimer disease and how they can be avoided. One is Show 1092: How Can You Overcome Alzheimer Disease?   Show 1132: Are Infections to Blame for Alzheimer Disease? may also interest you.  Our most recent interview with Dr. Bredesen is Show 1214: How to Defend Your Brain During the Pandemic and Beyond

We focus on type 2 diabetes in our eGuide to Preventing and Treating Diabetes. It has several ideas on reducing your risk for diabetes, which in turn should lower your chance of developing demential.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Hanyu H, "Diabetes-related dementia." Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, May 7, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-13-3540-2_8
  • Barbiellini Amidei C et al, "Association between age at diabetes onset and subsequent risk of dementia." JAMA, April 27, 2021. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2021.4001
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