Does diabetes protect or provoke Alzheimer's disease? Insights into the pathobiology and future treatment of Alzheimer's disease

CNS Spectr. 2003 Nov;8(11):815-23. doi: 10.1017/s1092852900019258.


Diabetes mellitus has long been considered a risk factor for the development of vascular dementia. Epidemiologic evidence has suggested that diabetes mellitus significantly increases risk for the development of Alzheimer's disease, independent of vascular risk factors. As insulin's role as a neuromodulator in the brain has been described, its significance for AD has also emerged. Insulin dysregulation may contribute to AD pathology through several mechanisms including decreased cortical glucose utilization particularly in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex; increased oxidative stress through the formation of advanced glycation end-products; increased Tau phosphorylation and neurofibrillary tangle formation; increased b-amyloid aggregation through inhibition of insulin-degrading enzyme. Future treatment of AD might involve pharmacologic and dietary manipulations of insulin and glucose regulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Insulysin / physiology
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / pathology
  • Plaque, Amyloid / pathology
  • Risk Factors


  • Insulin
  • Insulysin