Most people only think of insulin as helping to manage diabetes, but it's now proving to be something of a memory booster as well. A recent study has revealed that insulin can help restore memory and cognition in people affected by Alzheimer's disease.

In the study, conducted by the VA Puget Sound and the University of Washington, researchers delivered daily doses of either 20 IU of insulin, 40 IU of insulin, or a placebo through an intranasal nebulizer to 109 patients. The patients had either Alzheimer's or slight memory impairment. They found that patients who received a low dose of insulin did better on memory tests than patients who received a placebo, and that patients who received a higher dose of insulin were able to function better in their daily activities than those receiving the placebo. They did not, however, show any improvement in their functional abilities.

The team conducted a pilot study on young, healthy people before taking their quest to the Alzheimer's population. In that earlier study, intranasal insulin boosted memory without changing the subjects' glucose or insulin levels, which gave the team hope that delivering insulin through the nose enables it to work directly on the brain, which uses sugar for energy, and averts side effects in other parts of the body. Insulin aids the brain in its sugar usage.

But as promising as insulin therapy is for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers, it's not an option yet for the public. We are still in [the] beginning phases of determining long-term safety and efficacy, so it is unlikely that this approach will be available for the next five years," says Dr. Suzanne Craft, the study's lead. As the U.S. population ages and Alzheimer's becomes more prevalent, the medical community hopes to find new and better therapies to respond to this difficult disease.


Alzheimer Research Forum,;

Dr. Suzanne Craft, University of Washington.