An insulin nasal spray can improve cognitive function in those with Alzheimer’s disease and normal age-related memory problems, new research finds.
The pilot study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, involved 60 adults who had normal age-related memory problems or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s (Claxton et al., 2015).
Over 21 days, two groups received different doses of insulin detemir: a synthetic, long-acting version of the natural hormone.
A comparison group received a placebo.
The group which received the larger, daily nasal spray of insulin showed improvements in short-term memory in comparison to the lower dose and the placebo condition.
Professor Suzanne Craft, who led the study, said:
“The study provides preliminary evidence that insulin detemir can provide effective treatment for people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s-related dementia similar to our previous work with regular insulin.
We are also especially encouraged that we were able to improve memory for adults with MCI who have the APOE-e4 gene, as these patients are notoriously resistant to other therapies and interventions.”
This is the first study to test the effects of the longer-lasting synthetic insulin, although previous studies have found that natural insulin is effective.
Insulin is thought to help with memory problems because the areas of the brain which process memory are densely packed with insulin receptors.
Professor Craft continued:
“Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness, for which even small therapeutic gains have the potential to improve quality of life and significantly reduce the overall burden for patients, families and society.
Future studies are warranted to examine the safety and efficacy of this promising treatment.”