You have probably heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes but have you heard of type 3 diabetes?
It is a relatively new proposal, but type 3 diabetes has not been fully recognized by the scientific community as an official type of diabetes.
However, some research studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is a form of diabetes and should be classified as type 3 diabetes.
In this article, we will explore what makes it different from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the symptoms of type 3 diabetes, and whether or not it can be prevented.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that affects how your body processes blood sugar, also called glucose.
You need your cells to take in glucose to produce energy and, to do this, your cells use a hormone called insulin to help process it.
When your body stops producing insulin or your cells become insulin resistant, then you can have high blood glucose levels which cause diabetes.
If diabetes is left untreated it can lead to a number of medical problems including kidney disease, eye damage, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
What are the different types of diabetes?
There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
All of the types can have different causes so let’s take a closer look at each below.
Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes and insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks and destroys its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas causing your body to lack insulin or have low levels of insulin.
This happens due to your autoimmune system attacking those cells which stops the production of insulin.
If you have type 1 diabetes you must take daily insulin injections or use an insulin pump due to insulin deficiency.
It is not preventable and you can get type 1 diabetes at any age although it usually is diagnosed as a child, teen, or young adult.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.
It is a metabolic disorder where your body either has reduced levels of insulin or your cells don’t use insulin properly.
This type of diabetes can usually be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes such as eating healthier foods, being more active, and losing weight if needed.
If you have type 2 diabetes you may not need to take daily medications or insulin injections to manage blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in some women.
It usually goes away after the baby is born but it can increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on in life for both you and your child.
What is type 3 diabetes?
You may have noticed that there is no type 3 diabetes listed above, so what exactly is it?
Type 3 diabetes, also called brain diabetes, is a term proposed by Dr. Suzanne de la Monte and Dr. Jack Wands in a research paper published in 2008.
In the paper, the two suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is a form of diabetes which they coined as “type 3 diabetes.”
They believe type 3 diabetes is caused by the neurons in your brain becoming insulin resistant, which is usually the cause of type 2 diabetes.
Similar to how your body utilizes insulin, your neurons also need insulin to metabolize glucose for energy.
If your neurons become insulin resistant and have poor glucose utilization then they do not have the energy to perform normal tasks such as learning and forming memories which can lead to neurological degeneration and cognitive decline.
What causes type 3 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in your childhood through early adult years and has been shown to have very mild or modest negative impacts on brain development which would coincide with symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Even though there is slight cognitive decline, there wasn’t as strong an association between type 1 and type 3 diabetes as with type 2.
Patients with type 2 diabetes are typically diagnosed later in life where the symptoms of cognitive decline are more likely as you age.
According to Dr. de la Monte and Dr. Wands, type 2 diabetes can be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and there are 3 different causes for it. According to them, these causes include:
When your body becomes insulin resistant it makes your cells less sensitive to insulin.
If you have type 2 diabetes you often display insulin resistance which leads to high blood sugar levels.
If you have Alzheimer’s you exhibit brain insulin resistance and lack glucose too which can lead to symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
High blood sugar and brain damage
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, coupled with poor exercise and eating habits can cause chronic oxidative stress on the brain.
This means that there is an imbalance of free radicals that eventually start attacking your brain cells and tissue which can cause cell damage and cell loss leading to cognitive decline.
Lipid peroxidation is the process where free radicals attack fats in your cell membranes.
This can damage the structure and function of your cells, including your neurons which can lead to cognitive decline and inhibit brain function.
What are the symptoms of type 3 diabetes?
Since type 3 diabetes is linked with having Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms are nearly identical for both and there is also some overlap with the symptoms of type 2 diabetes also.
The common symptoms of type 3 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Poor reasoning
- Lack of spatial and visual awareness
- Mood swings or changes in demeanor
The disease progression of symptoms will become worse in type 3 diabetes/Alzheimer’s eventually leading you to be reliant on others due to an inability to communicate, seizures, loss of bowel control, and eventually death.
The cognitive decline caused by both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is believed to be minimal to moderate at best.
Can type 3 diabetes be prevented?
Currently, there is no known way to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which the doctors propose is the same as type 3 diabetes.
That being said, there are some things you can do to prevent cognitive decline. These include:
Eating a healthy diet
In general, having a balanced diet is good for you and your body overall.
However, there have been studies that show eating a Mediterranean diet that centers on fruit, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and seafood can lower your risk for Alzheimer’s/type 3 diabetes.
Regular exercise provides blood to the brain that can help it produce new neurons which will also help promote memory function too.
Obesity can be a common risk factor for dementia too.
Challenging your brain with reading and puzzles can help stimulate cognitive function.
Stress can cause inflammation in your brain which is a major factor for Alzheimer’s.
You can help reduce stress by practicing yoga or meditation.
Having a positive outlook on life has been linked with better cognitive function and a decrease in mental decline.
Is type 3 diabetes recognized by the scientific community?
Type 3 diabetes is not currently recognized by the scientific community as its own type of diabetes, while Alzheimer’s disease is recognized.
Two researchers have proposed a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, specifically type 2 diabetes but more trials and research needs to be done.
Although people with type 1 diabetes have shown some signs of slight cognitive decline too, it has not been linked with type 3 diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease.
It is considered controversial to diagnose anyone with type 3 diabetes as it is not a recognized medical diagnosis.
However, given the current research, type 3 diabetes could be distinguished from other types in the future.
Until then, patients suffering from cognitive decline associated with type 3 diabetes can take steps to improve their overall health.
Type 3 diabetes, also known as Alzheimer’s disease, is a controversial diagnosis of a type of diabetes that has not been recognized by the medical community.
It was proposed by two doctors in 2008 because insulin resistance in the human brain due to Alzheimer’s is similar to insulin resistance due to diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is thought to play a potential role in causing type 3 diabetes; however, type 1 diabetes is not thought to be a cause even though there may be a slight decline in cognitive function due to type 1 diabetes.
The symptoms are the same as Alzheimer’s disease and can include memory loss, mood swings, anxiety, depression, lack of spatial and visual awareness, and poor judgment.
There is currently no known way to prevent type 3 diabetes but there are ways to help improve cognitive function overall.
It is important to note that although it is yet to be recognized by the scientific community as a separate type of diabetes it is possible that in the future it will be distinguished from other types.
If you have any other questions please about diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease please talk to your doctor or healthcare professional.
References and Sources:
- Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed
- What Are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Is Alzheimer’s disease a Type 3 Diabetes? A Critical Appraisal
- Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed
- The Four Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention
- Obesity associated with a higher risk for dementia, new study finds
Fact Checked and Editorial Process
Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Erik Rivera and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
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