A new study indicates that degenerative symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may be slowed by a nasal insulin spray. The study is small and seems to be geared toward patients who manage to catch their symptoms early. Authors of the study have been careful to point out that more research will be necessary before the true magnitude of the benefits can be ascertained. It has long been theorized that insulin dysfunction plays a significant role in the symptoms of Alzheimer's, which include difficulty in retaining memory, language, and cognitive function. Dr. James E. Galvin, professor of neurology and psychiatry and director of the Pearl S. Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center, believes that despite the minimal size of the study, "[...] the authors provide some of the most convincing evidence to date that insulin treatment may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease." As this illness affects so many families and has remained a frustrating mystery for so long, any groundbreaking research deserves significant press attention and significant accolades given to the scientists who brought it to bear.
Dr. Galvin went on to explain that, as insulin dysfunction is connected to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the links between those conditions and Alzheimer's disease are illuminated by this study, which "further supports links between impaired insulin signaling in the brain and cognitive decline." The four-month study was published Monday in Archives of Neurology. One hundred four people who reported "mild memory problems" agreed to participate; these problems were attributed either to Alzheimer's or to amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). The experiment involved 36 of the 104 participants receiving 20 IUs of insulin daily, 38 receiving 40 IUs, and 30 receiving a placebo. The results that were monitored included glucose metabolism in the brain, in addition to everyday cognitive functioning and thought processes.
The group receiving 20 IUs showed significant improvement in "story recall," meaning that they were better able to remember details of a story both moments after hearing it and after a time lapse. Interestingly, the group receiving the double dose joined the placebo group in displaying no improvement. However, the standard dementia test showed decline in the placebo group, but no decline in either group who received insulin during the course of the study. The examination of general cognitive function showed similar resultsÂ—no decline in either group receiving insulin, but slight decline in the placebo group. Dr. Suzanne Craft, of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington School of Medicine, along with her colleagues, summed it up: "The results of our pilot trial demonstrate that the administration of intranasal insulin stabilized or improved cognition, function and cerebral glucose metabolism for adults with aMCI or AD (Alzheimer's disease)." It is always an exciting development when new, minimally invasive avenues of treatment become available for stubborn and degenerative neurological conditions, so this research is valuable and heartening.