MAY 05, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Insulin Nasal Spray Improves Cognitive Outcome for Diabetes Patients

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Diabetes is an increasingly common condition that affects at least 1 in 10 U.S adults. Millions more have prediabetes and are at risk of developing full diabetes, though almost 1 in 3 don’t even know they are at risk.

These numbers are disconcerting, because diabetes carries its own set of health complications. The damage caused by ineffective or low insulin leads to excess blood glucose levels, which can cause tissue and nerve damage. Diabetes can also increase the risk of life-threatening conditions like heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis (a narrowing of arteries). 

An often overlooked complication of diabetes includes cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s. Insulin plays an important role in cognitive function, putting people with diabetes at a higher risk for neurocognitive conditions. Older adults with diabetes are especially more likely to develop these conditions. 

A new study published in the Journal of Neurology outlines the benefits of a nasal spray form of insulin on cognitive function in older adults with diabetes.

Previous research suggests there is a connection between nasally-administered insulin and cognition in older adults. The paper in Neurology describes the results of a phase 2 randomized study (called MemAID) and the long-term benefits of nasally-administered insulin. Participants with and without type 2 diabetes were enrolled in the study to examine how nasal insulin affected people differently. About 223 participants between the ages of 50 and 85 were enrolled. 

Participants were randomized to receive either insulin or a saline solution administered through the nose for about 24 weeks of treatment. During this time, various tests were used to assess participants' walking and various cognitive functions, such as memory or attention. 

The study found evidence of the following in participants with diabetes who received insulin through the nose versus those who received the placebo:

  • An increase in walking pace
  • An increase in blood flow in the cerebral region
  • Lower insulin resistance

The study found that people without diabetes who received insulin showed improvements in memory and decision making. 

Many of the effects of nasally-administered insulin were especially pronounced in patients with prediabetes, highlighting intranasal insulin’s role as an early intervention strategy. 

Sources: EurekaAlert!Journal of Neurology

About the Author
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Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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