Image by Emory University

Is Type 3 diabetes an actual term? Well, for some years now, some research studies have proposed that Alzheimer’s disease should also be classified as a type of diabetes, called type 3 diabetes. Douda (November 7, 2017) reported that “There is a hypothesis that Alzheimer’s disease, which is a major cause of dementia, is triggered by a type of insulin resistance and insulin-like growth factor dysfunction that occurs specifically in the brain.” In other words, the brain is unable to utilize insulin.   Dr. Guojun Bu, a Mayo Clinic neuroscientist, professes type 2 diabetes has a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. One reason may be reduced blood flow to the brain because of damaged blood vessels; Dr. Bu also explains that the gene (APOE4) seems to interfere with brain cells’ ability to use insulin, which may eventually cause the cells to starve and die. Unofficially, it’s called Type 3 diabetes. 

More than 50 percent of Alzheimer’s cases can be linked to a gene

More than 50 percent of Alzheimer’s cases can be linked to the APOE4 gene. Diabetes (clinically called diabetes mellitus) refers to a health condition where your body has difficulty converting sugar to energy. Matthews (2023) reports that typically, we (the public) think of three kinds of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is a chronic health condition in which your body’s endocrine part of the pancreas does not produce enough of the hormone insulin, and your blood sugar (glucose) level becomes too high. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which your body develops insulin resistance, and your blood sugar level becomes too high as a result. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and the blood sugar level is too high during this time. 

Alzheimer’s and your brain

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Some people say that Alzheimer’s is “diabetes in your brain.” This claim has some science behind it, but it’s a bit of an oversimplification. The Type 3 category is divided into roughly eight different genetic mutations, rare genetic patterns,3) pancreatic diseases, 4) hormonal disorders, 5) toxins, 6) drug effects,7) infections, and 8) autoimmune diseases. The symptoms of type 3 diabetes are described as the symptoms of dementia, such as those seen in early Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these symptoms include memory loss that affects daily living and social interactions, difficulty completing familiar tasks, misplacing things often, decreased ability to make judgments based on information, and sudden changes in personality or demeanor. However, type 3 diabetes is not an officially recognized health condition. 

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What Is Type 3 Diabetes?

While most of us are familiar with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, you may not have come across the term ‘type 3 diabetes’ before.

The American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Association, as well as other major health organizations, does not list Alzheimer’s disease as a type of diabetes within their classification. The symptoms of type 3 diabetes are described as the symptoms of dementia, such as those seen in early Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these symptoms include memory loss that affects daily living and social interactions, difficulty completing familiar tasks, misplacing things often, decreased ability to make judgments based on information, and sudden changes in personality or demeanor. There is no specific test for type 3 diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed based on a neurological examination, medical history, and neurophysiological testing. Your primary care provider will ask several questions about your family history and symptoms. More research is pending and type 3 diabetes may eventually be diagnosed and treated.

The Narrative Matters!

References:

Douda, D. (November 7, 2017). Mayo Clinic Minute: Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes? Mayo Clinic Minute: Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes? – Mayo Clinic News Network

Fatima, S. (April 5, 2022). Type 3 Diabetes Causes, Symptoms and More. Type 3 Diabetes – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment – Sugar.Fit (sugarfit.com)

Matthews, J. (2023). https://www.palmettoendocrinology.org/blog/type-3-diabetes-and-alzheimers-disease-what-you-need-to-know#

Richards, L. (June 9, 2023). Type 3 diabetes explained. Type 3 diabetes: Causes, symptoms, treatment, comparison (medicalnewstoday.com)