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Diabetes linked to increased risk of Alzheimer's in long-term study

Diabetes mellitus was linked to a 65 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD), appearing to affect some aspects of cognitive function differently than others in a new study supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health. The findings, from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center's Religious Orders Study, add to a developing body of research examining a possible link between diabetes and cognitive decline. The results reported today are among the first to examine how certain cognitive "systems" memory for words and events, the speed of processing information, and the ability to recognize spatial patterns -- may be affected selectively in people with diabetes.

The research, by Zoe Arvanitakis, M.D., David Bennett, M.D., and colleagues at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, appears in the May 2004 issue of the Archives of Neurology. The investigators are part of the institution's Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, headed by Dr. Bennett. The AD Center is one of 30 across the U.S. supported by the NIA to study and care for Alzheimer's patients.

"The research on a possible link between diabetes and increased risk of AD is intriguing, and this study gives us important additional insights," says Neil Buckholtz, Ph.D., head of the Dementias of Aging Branch in the NIA's neurosciences program. "Further research, some currently underway, will tell us whether therapies for diabetes may in fact play a role in lowering risk of AD or cognitive decline."

Some 824 Catholic nuns, priests, and brothers participating in the Religious Orders Study were followed for an average of 5.5 years. They received detailed clinical evaluations annually, including neuropsychological testing of five cognitive "systems" commonly affected by aging, AD, and other dementias episodic memory (memory of specific life events), semantic memory (general knowledge), working memory (ability to hold and mentally re
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Contact: Vicky Cahan
cahanv@nia.nih.gov
301-496-1752
NIH/National Institute on Aging
17-May-2004


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