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We know the causes of certain diseases: lung cancer is linked to smoking; heart disease is more frequent in those who don’t eat healthfully and exercise regularly. But perhaps the most frustrating, are those diseases where the causes remain a mystery–especially when they sneak up and affect us most personally. So when new evidence of a link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes surfaced recently, it was the source of quite a bit of news hype.

What is the Link?

The short answer is that the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s is not completely understood quite yet. Diabetes and pre-diabetes has long been linked to vascular dementia — a similar disease to Alzheimer’s — because of the damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes.

But some new studies, explained by the Mayo Clinic, focus on the way that diabetes affects the ability of the brain to use sugar, which can then exacerbate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or bring the disease to the surface.

Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?

The idea that Alzheimer’s could be a different form of diabetes entirely — or type-3 diabetes — has been around since 2005. Alzheimer’s would not, then, be caused by type-2 diabetes necessarily. The disease would instead be a result of the same sorts of behaviors that lead to type-2 diabetes: environmental factors and eating decisions that lead the body to have difficulties controlling the production of insulin.

What Changes?

For many years, Alzheimer’s was considered a genetic disorder that couldn’t be controlled. While this may still be the case — it’s still too soon to tell — that’s no reason not to act.

People with Alzheimer’s in their families are still more prone to the disease than others, but the consumption of unhealthy foods, particularly those high in sugar, can exacerbate the symptoms and make the disease more likely to develop. So considering a healthy approach to food — whether or not Alzheimer’s is in fact linked to diabetes — is always a good idea!

Image: Mark Barkaway