By Mark Waghorn
A cheap pill taken by millions of diabetics can halve their risk of Alzheimer’s, according to new research.
Actos, known medically as Pioglitazone, slows mental decline – slashing rates of the memory-robbing illness.
The tablets, costing about 30p each, could be a “game changer.” They help control blood sugar levels by boosting the hormone insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, the form caused by unhealthy lifestyles, affects 4.5 million people in the UK. They are twice as prone to dementia. Both conditions are linked to poor circulation.
Lead author Dr. Eosu Kim, of Yonsei University in South Korea, said: “Since dementia develops for years before diagnosis, there may be an opportunity for intervening before it progresses.”
Benefits were strongest for those who also had a history of stroke or ischaemic heart disease, a condition caused by narrowed arteries.
They were 43 and 54 percent less likely to develop dementia, respectively.
This was after accounting for potentially aggravating factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and physical activity,
Overall, incidence fell by 16 per cent among participants prescribed the drug – with cases falling the longer they were on it.
Case rates were reduced 22 and 37 percent in participants using the medication for two and four years, respectively.
The findings are based on 91,218 individuals in South Korea tracked for an average of ten years, 3,467 of whom received Pioglitazone.
People taking the drug were also less likely to have a stroke.
Dr. Kim said: “These results provide valuable information on who could potentially benefit from Pioglitazone use for the prevention of dementia.
“In some previous studies of people with dementia or at risk of cognitive decline who did not have diabetes, Pioglitazone did not show any protection against dementia.
“So it is likely a critical factor affecting the effectiveness is the presence of diabetes. More research is needed to confirm these findings.”
During the study, 8.3 percent of those taking Pioglitazone developed dementia, compared to ten percent not taking it.
The number of dementia cases worldwide will triple to more than 150 million by 2050. With no cure in sight, there is an increasing focus on protective lifestyle factors.
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise help ward off diabetes – and dementia.
Side effects of Actos include swelling, weight gain, bone loss and congestive heart failure.
More research is needed on the long-term safety of the drug and whether there is an optimal dose, said Prof Kim.
The study was published in the journal Neurology.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
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