This week in class we read an article detailing how the symptoms of type 2 diabetes can lead to Alzheimer’s Disease later on in life. The main issue involved in type 2 diabetes which leads to Alzheimer’s is that your body develops a resistance to your own body’s natural insulin. This leads to many processes in the brain becoming altered with the end result of them acting together to give someone Alzheimer’s.
One of the primary results of type 2 diabetes, the aforementioned insulin resistance, leads to an increased use of insulin in the periphery, that is areas outside of the central nervous system, as well as a decreased flow of insulin into the brain. One result of this lack of insulin is a decrease in the production of acetylcholine, a vital neurotransmitter in the formation of memories. Acetylcholine depends on insulin to induce the breakdown of glucose, a sugar, into pyruvate, which is then oxidized to form Acetyl-CoA which is a necessary to form acetylcholine.
Insulin is also an important signal molecule. It interacts with N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in order to allow calcium ions into our neurons. This influx of calcium into our nerve cells activates calcium ion dependent enzymes withing the cell. Another important function of insulin as a signal molecule is that researchers have found that the act of insulin signaling in your brain decreases the number of receptors for ADDL’s. ADDL’s degrade your nerve cells by binding to their synapses, which are where the nerve cells pass on either chemical or electrical signals. It has also been found that inhibition of insulin signaling in the brain leads to the hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins within the brain. These tau proteins, which are normally soluble, begin to clump together and interfere with the inner workings of the cell. This happens because the protein GSK-3-beta, which is usually inhibited by insulin, is left unchecked to phosphorylate tau proteins as it pleases.
Another important function of insulin is that it helps with inflammation. Normally, epinephrine, which is anti-inflammatory, is regulated by insulin, but without insulin the ADDL’s in your system continue to inflame the tissue, and in fact create a self-reinforcing process which produces more ADDL’s.
Besides the effects of diabetes on your body, in small groups we talked about what we can do as a society to decrease the prevalence of avoidable diseases like diabetes. One of the major things we talked about in this area is whether the government should get involved in the food choices that people make. Bad food is also cheap food, so a lot of people find it easier to simply go out to eat rather than prepare a healthy meal, should the government help out by subsidizing healthy foods, or by taxing unhealthy foods. One group member even posed the question of whether obese people should be able to qualify for government health insurance. Personally, I think the government should get involved simply because the percentage of the population that can apply for medicare is getting larger and as people still say that it is a service that they want, the government should take steps to ensure that the people entering into the program do not have the risk factors associated with these avoidable illnesses. I know that the idea that the government should give tax breaks to companies that supply their employees with gym memberships has been thrown around. I feel like that is one good way that the government can do something to help people while not stepping on so many toes.