The world’s approach to dementia treatment has changed in recent years. In the past it was seen as an inevitable part of ageing; that as the body declined, so did the mind. Now the science has changed and dementia is known not as part of ageing, but as a disease, and one that can be treated. As a result, millions of pounds is going into research into preventative and reactive treatments.
Part of the quest for new dementia treatments involves looking to medications for other conditions.
This occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was found that dexamethasone, the cheap anti-inflammatory, was very effective at treating Covid.
Researchers have now discovered metformin – a drug used to treat type two diabetes – could confer neuroprotective benefits.
The results suggested it could be associated with a lowered risk of neurodegenerative disease after a person had been using it for at least four years.
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Metformin is normally used to treat diabetes, a condition that carries with it an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease.
The data in question was a meta-analysis.
They found the neuroprotective effect was increased with extended use of the drug.
More research is needed to confirm the potential dementia preventative impact of metformin.
They also found exercise resulted in fewer amyloid deposits, a protein whose build up is thought to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.
Exercise was also found to result in higher cerebral glucose metabolism, a process where the brain absorbs its main energy source.
Additionally, there was a greater volume of grey matter that allows the brain to function normally for a greater length of time.
This included movement control, regulation of emotions, and retention of memories.
Furthermore, the researchers wrote: “Most importantly, the relation between physical activity and cerebral glucose metabolism did not depend on insulin and BMI [body mass index].
“The benefits of physical activity on cerebral glucose metabolism may rather act through more direct neuronal effects, such as increased neurogenesis, cell survival, expression of neurotrophic factors, and synaptic plasticity.”
Although there is no effective treatment for the prevention of dementia, researchers are confident of new treatments can occur within the next 10 years.
Data suggests one in three people born today will be affected by dementia in their lifetime.