I recently heard about a new Alzheimer's treatment, a nose spray containing insulin. How does it work and is there an Alzheimer's nose spray available?
Answers from Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
Insulin — a hormone that helps regulate your blood sugar — appears to play a role in normal memory processes. Insulin irregularities may contribute to cognitive and brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease.
In the past several years, researchers have been investigating the use of insulin to treat Alzheimer's disease. One of the challenges is how to provide insulin in such a way that it improves brain function without significantly disrupting your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar drops too low, for example, it can create complications, such as confusion, heart palpitations, anxiety and visual disturbances.
Preliminary research suggests that when taken as a nose spray, insulin reaches the brain within a few minutes and may improve memory and help preserve cognitive function in people with early Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment.
But these studies have only involved small groups of participants, and the long-term results are not clear. Clinical trials are currently underway.
Although this research is promising, more research on the safety and effectiveness of intranasal insulin therapy for Alzheimer's disease is necessary.
Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
Feb. 08, 2017
- Keene CD, et al. Epidemiology, pathology, and pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 1, 2016.
- Craft S, et al. Intranasal insulin therapy for Alzheimer disease and amnestic mild cognitive impairment: A pilot clinical trial. Archives of Neurology. 2011;69:29.
- Schrijvers EMC, et al. Insulin metabolism and the risk of Alzheimer disease: The Rotterdam Study. Neurology. 2010;74:1982.
- Holscher C. First clinical data of the neuroprotective effects of nasal insulin application in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia. 2010;10:S33.