Insulin nasal spray
Representational image. Reuters

Spray insulin in your nose twice daily and you may put your early Alzheimer's disease at bay, a study suggests.

The study was published online in the Archives of Neurology.

The small pilot study on 104 people with mild memory problems was carried out by a team led by Suzanne Craft, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington and was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The preliminary findings suggest that spraying insulin twice daily into the nose slows down and, in some cases, reverses symptoms of Alzheimer's, researchers said Monday.

Supporting the present research, Dr. James E. Galvin, professor of neurology and psychiatry and director of the Pearl S. Barlow Center for Memory Evaluation and Treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York said, Although a small study, the authors provide some of the most convincing evidence to date that insulin treatment may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

The study authors, however, said more detailed research is required to confirm whether the therapy is truly helpful.

For the four-month study, the subjects were divided into three groups. The first group consisting of 30 people was given a placebo, the second group had 36 people who got 20 international units of aerosolized insulin per day and the third group of 38 people got 40 IU of insulin every day.

The researchers judged the effects of insulin on the subjects by assessing factors like thought process, everyday activity and glucose metabolism in the brain.

The end result of the study showed that people who took 20 IU of insulin daily did much better in recalling a story than the other two groups. The placebo taking group showed sign of decline in the standard dementia test done before and after the study compared to both the insulin taking groups.

A link between obesity, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's was established in earlier researches but the present study further supports links between impaired insulin signaling in the brain and cognitive decline, Galvin said.

Insulin is a metabolic hormone best known for its role in treating diabetes, a condition in which the hormone is either insufficiently produced or poorly used by the body's organs. Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body.

Insulin also influences other body functions, such as vascular compliance and cognition. Once insulin enters the human brain, it enhances learning and memory and benefits verbal memory, in particular. Enhancing brain insulin signaling by means of intranasal insulin administration also enhances the acute thermo-regulatory and gluco-regulatory response to food intake, suggesting that central nervous insulin contributes to the control of whole-body energy homeostasis in humans.