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About Diabetes Type 3

By Jennifer Olvera ; Updated August 14, 2017

Diabetes Type 3—which is regarded as “brain” specific diabetes—is a dangerous diabetes hybrid that was first discovered in 2005. A study, which was conducted at Brown University Medical School, suggests the brain produces insulin in a way that’s similar to the pancreas. A problem with insulin production in the brain is thought to result in the formation of protein “plaque”—not unlike that which is found among suffers of Type 1 (insulin-dependant) and Type 2 diabetes (insulin-resistant). But in the case of diabetes Type 3, plaque appears in the brain and leads to memory loss and problems forming memories.

What Happens

When it comes to the body, insulin is responsible for helping to convert food to energy. The brain uses insulin, too, but it’s thought insulin’s primary purpose in the brain is to form memories at synapses (the spaces where cells in the brain communicate), notes Neurons save space for insulin receptors; insulin makes way for memories to form. In order for the brain to keep making more brain cells, it needs insulin. When insulin receptors flee—as is the case with sufferers of diabetes Type 3—the brain does not receive the energy it needs to form memories.

Alzheimer’s Connection

According to a research team at Northwestern University, insulin may prevent or slow memory loss among those with Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the synapses that form memory. Those with the disease tend to have lower insulin levels and are insulin-resistant. The team found that the reason memory fails when insulin shortage occurs is because amyloid beta-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) destroy the receptors in the brain that typically are reserved for insulin, thus making the receptors insulin-resistant. Without the space for insulin, receptors cannot connect, and memory loss occurs.

Possible Cholesterol Connection

According to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, there may be a link between cholesterol and cognitive decline among Alzheimer's patients taking lipid-lowering drugs. French researchers note taking certain cholesterol-lowering drugs may result in a slower progression of Alzheimer's disease. It’s thought statins could play a role in keeping Alzheimer's disease from progressing.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Connection

The American Diabetes Association notes that there isn’t a “standard definition” for diabetes Type 3, though it’s sometimes called “double diabetes” because it has been used to describe those with Type 1 diabetes who additionally shows signs of insulin resistance (the major symptom of Type 2 diabetes). Type 3 diabetes also has been used to describe those with Type 1 diabetes who become insulin-resistant over time. In some cases, taking insulin-sensitizing drugs may be beneficial.

Symptoms of Insulin Function Problems

When insulin function goes awry, a number of symptoms may occur. Some of the most common ones include cravings for carbohydrates and sugars—such as cookies, chips and crackers—and feeling “out of it” or fatigued in the late afternoon. Weight gain in the middle of the body also is common, according to Kathleen Jade, ND.

What Comes Next

Diabetes Type 3 is not completely understood. Diagnosis and treatments remain in the early stages, and mores studies are required in order to fully understand how to help those with diabetes Type 3—as well as its connection to Alzheimer's and dementia.

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