According to Iowa State University researchers, higher levels of the enzyme, autotaxin, significantly predict memory impairment and type 2 diabetes.
Autotaxin, often studied in cancer research, is an even stronger indicator of type 2 diabetes. A single point increase reflects a 300% greater likelihood of having the disease or pre-diabetes.
The results are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Previous research found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory decline and detrimental brain outcomes, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Insulin resistance is a good indicator, but it has limitations because what happens in the body does not consistently translate to what happens in the brain.
Researchers also found correlations with worse memory function, brain volume loss and the brain using less blood glucose, which have also been shown with insulin resistance, but autotaxin has a higher predictive value.
The fact that autotaxin is a strong predictor of type 2 diabetes and memory decline emphasizes the importance of good physical health.
People with higher levels of autotaxin are more likely to be obese, which often causes an increase in insulin resistance.
Autotaxin levels can determine the amount of energy the brain is using in areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. People with higher autotaxin levels had fewer and smaller brain cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain associated with memory and executive function. As a result, they had lower scores for memory and tests related to reasoning and multitasking.
Researchers analyzed data from 287 adults collected through the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a public-private partnership working to determine whether MRI and PET scans as well as biological markers can measure the progression of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
The data came from adults ranging in age from 56 to 89 years old.
Study participants completed various tests to measure cognitive function. This included repeating a list of words over various time increments. ( Xagena )
Source: Iowa State University, 2016