Melissa A. Schilling
Numerous studies have documented a strong association between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The nature of the relationship, however, has remained a puzzle, in part because of seemingly incongruent findings. For example, some studies have concluded that insulin deficiency is primarily at fault, suggesting that intranasal insulin or inhibiting the insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) could be beneficial. Other research has concluded that hyperinsulinemia is to blame, which implies that intranasal insulin or the inhibition of IDE would exacerbate the disease. Such antithetical conclusions pose a serious obstacle to making progress on treatments. However, careful integration of multiple strands of research, with attention to the methods used in different studies, makes it possible to disentangle the research on AD. This integration suggests that there is an important relationship between insulin, IDE, and AD that yields multiple pathways to AD depending on the where deficiency or excess in the cycle occurs. I review evidence for each of these pathways here. The results suggest that avoiding excess insulin, and supporting robust IDE levels, could be important ways of preventing and lessening the impact of AD. I also describe what further tests need to be conducted to verify the arguments made in the paper, and their implications for treating AD.