Living Well with Chronic Conditions

Diabetics more prone to anxiety and depression


Insulin resistance could lead to brain changes that induce anxiety and depression, suggesting that diabetics may be more prone to mental health imbalances than their peers.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that mice who had been genetically modified to have insulin-resistant brains were more likely to have lower levels of dopamine, the key neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being.

"This is one of the first studies that directly shows that insulin resistance in the brain actually can produce a behavioral change," said C. Ronald Kahn, MD, Chief Academic Officer at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study.

Increased risk with age

Researchers also found that the older the mice got, the more pronounced the behavioral changes were - suggesting that neurological problems linked to insulin resistance might not appear until later in life, or can worsen with age.

Insulin therapy, however, may improve cognitive function.The authors cite research on Alzheimer's patients whose symptoms improved with inhaled insulin.

“It’s obviously too early to tell, because we’re looking at very early-stage research, but one could imagine that intranasal insulin might actually have some effects in anti-depression or anti-anxiety in people with diabetes," Kahn said.

The study is published in the journal PNAS.

Source: Joslin Diabetes Center

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