Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Alzheimer Disease

  1. Juliette Janson12,
  2. Thomas Laedtke1,
  3. Joseph E. Parisi2,
  4. Peter O’Brien3,
  5. Ronald C. Petersen4 and
  6. Peter C. Butler5
  1. 1Endocrine Research Unit, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  2. 2Department of Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  3. 3Department of Biostatistics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  4. 4Department of Neurology and Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  5. 5Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Peter C. Butler, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1333 San Pablo Street, BMT-B11, Los Angeles, CA 90033. E-mail: pbutler{at}


Alzheimer disease and type 2 diabetes are characterized by increased prevalence with aging, a genetic predisposition, and comparable pathological features in the islet and brain (amyloid derived from amyloid β protein in the brain in Alzheimer disease and islet amyloid derived from islet amyloid polypeptide in the pancreas in type 2 diabetes). Evidence is growing to link precursors of amyloid deposition in the brain and pancreas with the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease and type 2 diabetes, respectively. Given these similarities, we questioned whether there may be a common underlying mechanism predisposing to islet and cerebral amyloid. To address this, we first examined the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in a community-based controlled study, the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer Disease Patient Registry (ADPR), which follows patients with Alzheimer disease versus control subjects without Alzheimer disease. In addition to this clinical study, we performed a pathological study of autopsy cases from this same community to determine whether there is an increased prevalence of islet amyloid in patients with Alzheimer disease and increased prevalence of cerebral amyloid in patients with type 2 diabetes. Patients who were enrolled in the ADPR (Alzheimer disease n = 100, non-Alzheimer disease control subjects n = 138) were classified according to fasting glucose concentration (FPG) as nondiabetic (FPG <110 mg/dl), impaired fasting glucose (IFG, FPG 110–125 mg/dl), and type 2 diabetes (FPG >126 mg/dl). The mean slope of FPG over 10 years in each case was also compared between Alzheimer disease and non-Alzheimer disease control subjects. Pancreas and brain were examined from autopsy specimens obtained from 105 humans (first, 28 cases of Alzheimer disease disease vs. 21 non-Alzheimer disease control subjects and, second, 35 subjects with type 2 diabetes vs. 21 non-type 2 diabetes control subjects) for the presence of islet and brain amyloid. Both type 2 diabetes (35% vs. 18%; P < 0.05) and IFG (46% vs. 24%; P < 0.01) were more prevalent in Alzheimer disease versus non-Alzheimer disease control subjects, so 81% of cases of Alzheimer disease had either type 2 diabetes or IFG. The slope of increase of FPG with age over 10 years was also greater in Alzheimer disease than non-Alzheimer disease control subjects (P < 0.01). Islet amyloid was more frequent (P < 0.05) and extensive (P < 0.05) in patients with Alzheimer disease than in non-Alzheimer disease control subjects. However, diffuse and neuritic plaques were not more common in type 2 diabetes than in control subjects. In cases of type 2 diabetes when they were present, the duration of type 2 diabetes correlated with the density of diffuse (P < 0.001) and neuritic plaques (P < 0.01). In this community cohort from southeast Minnesota, type 2 diabetes and IFG are more common in patients with Alzheimer disease than in control subjects, as is the pathological hallmark of type 2 diabetes, islet amyloid. However, there was no increase in brain plaque formation in cases of type 2 diabetes, although when it was present, it correlated in extent with duration of diabetes. These data support the hypothesis that patients with Alzheimer disease are more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes and the possibility of linkage between the processes responsible for loss of brain cells and β-cells in these diseases.


  • R.C.P. is on an advisory panel for Elam Pharmaceuticals; has received honoraria from Pfizer, Eisai, Novartis, and Janssen; and has received grant/research support from the National Institute on Aging, Pfizer, and Eisai.

    • Accepted October 27, 2003.
    • Received August 13, 2003.
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