Consequences of Metabolic Disruption in Alzheimer's Disease Pathology

Neurotherapeutics. 2019 Jul;16(3):600-610. doi: 10.1007/s13311-019-00755-y.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive disease that slowly destroys cognitive function, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to a level that one cannot carry out a daily living. As people live longer, the risk of developing AD has increased to 1 in 10 among people who are older than 65 and to almost 1 in 2 among those who are older than 85 according to a 2019 Alzheimer's Association report. As a most common cause of dementia, AD accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. AD is characterized by amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, composed of extracellular aggregates of amyloid-β peptides and intracellular aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau, respectively. Besides plaques and tangles, AD pathology includes synaptic dysfunction including loss of synapses, inflammation, brain atrophy, and brain hypometabolism, all of which contribute to progressive cognitive decline. Recent genetic studies of sporadic cases of AD have identified a score of risk factors, as reported by Hollingworth et al. (Nat Genet 43:429-435, 2001) and Lambert et al. (Nat Genet 45:1452-1458, 2013). Of all these genes, apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) still presents the biggest risk factor for sporadic cases of AD, as stated in Saunders et al. (Neurology 43:1467-1472, 1993): depending on whether you have 1 or 2 copies of APOE4 allele, the risk increases from 3- to 12-fold, respectively, in line with Genin et al. (Mol Psychiatry 16:903-907, 2011). Besides these genetic risk factors, having type 2 diabetes (T2D), a chronic metabolic disease, is known to increase the AD risk by at least 2-fold when these individuals age, conforming to Sims-Robinson et al. (Nat Rev Neurol 6:551-559, 2010). Diabetes is reaching a pandemic scale with over 422 million people diagnosed worldwide in 2014 according to World Health Organization. Although what proportion of these diabetic patients develop AD is not known, even if 10% of diabetic patients develop AD later in their life, it would double the number of AD patients in the world. Better understanding between T2D and AD is of paramount of importance for the future. The goal of this review is to examine our current understanding on metabolic dysfunction in AD, so that a potential target can be identified in the near future.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Brain hypometabolism; Circadian rhythm; Insulin resistance; Leptin resistance; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Chronobiology Disorders / complications
  • Chronobiology Disorders / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / complications*


  • Leptin
  • Glucose