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?

Answer 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.

Early research suggested that when taken as a nose spray, insulin could possibly improve memory and help preserve cognitive function in people with early Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment.

However, recent trials showed negative results. A study investigating the impact of nasal insulin on people with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer's disease found no benefits from the drug.

While optimism for insulin has been dampened, researchers are still trying to understand if and how insulin might be used to manage Alzheimer's disease.

With

Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

June 06, 2019 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. MIND diet may cut Alzheimer's risk
  2. Adult day service
  3. Alzheimer's: 7 tips for medical visits
  4. Alzheimer's sleep problems
  5. Alzheimer's: New treatments
  6. Alzheimer's 101
  7. Alzheimer's and daily tasks
  8. Understanding the difference between dementia types
  9. Alzheimer's: Can a head injury increase my risk?
  10. Mediterranean diet
  11. Holidays with Alzheimer's disease
  12. Alzheimer's disease
  13. Alzheimer's disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?
  14. Alzheimer's drugs
  15. Alzheimer's genes
  16. Alzheimer's or depression: Could it be both?
  17. Alzheimer's prevention: Does it exist?
  18. Alzheimer's stages
  19. Alzheimer's test: Detection at the earliest stages
  20. Alzheimer's and holidays
  21. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  22. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  23. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  24. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  25. Antidepressants: Side effects
  26. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  27. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  28. Anxiety disorders
  29. Atypical antidepressants
  30. Axona: Medical food to treat Alzheimer's
  31. Benefits of being bilingual
  32. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  33. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  34. Can music help someone with Alzheimer's?
  35. Can yoga help me keep caregiver stress in check?
  36. Caregiver stress
  37. Caregiving: Dealing with the strain on your marriage
  38. Long-distance caregiving
  39. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  40. CT scan
  41. CT scans: Are they safe?
  42. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  43. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  44. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  45. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  46. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  47. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  48. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  49. Diabetes and Alzheimer's
  50. Diagnosing Alzheimer's
  51. Early-onset Alzheimer's
  52. Alzheimer's elder care
  53. Fish oil and depression
  54. Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
  55. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  56. Home safety tips for Alzheimer's caregivers
  57. How can I cope with caregiver guilt?
  58. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  59. Improve brain health with the MIND diet
  60. Is the definition of Alzheimer's disease changing?
  61. Depression and diet
  62. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  63. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  64. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  65. Marijuana and depression
  66. Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
  67. Mayo Clinic Minute: Alzheimer's disease risk and lifestyle
  68. Mayo Clinic Minute New definition of Alzheimer's changes
  69. Mayo Clinic Minute: Women and Alzheimer's Disease
  70. Mediterranean diet recipes
  71. Memory loss: When to seek help
  72. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  73. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  74. MRI
  75. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  76. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  77. New Alzheimers Research
  78. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  79. Pet therapy
  80. Phantosmia: What causes olfactory hallucinations?
  81. Phosphatidylserine supplements: Can they improve memory?
  82. Positron emission tomography scan
  83. Rapidly progressing Alzheimer's: Something else?
  84. Seeing Inside the Heart with MRI
  85. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  86. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  87. Sharing Alzheimer's diagnosis
  88. Brain anatomy
  89. Sundowning: Late-day confusion
  90. Treatment-resistant depression
  91. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  92. Video: Alzheimer's drug shows early promise
  93. MRI
  94. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  95. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  96. Vitamin D: Can it prevent Alzheimer's & dementia?