Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health have found that people with diabetes have a significantly increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Despite that finding, they say that there are too few data to support a causative link between diabetes and Parkinson’s.
The study tracked 289,000 American adults to see how many would be diagnosed with Parkinson’s over a 15-year period. Included in that figure were 21,600 participants who had already been diagnosed with diabetes.
Over the 15 years, 172 (0.8%) of the study’s participants with diabetes developed Parkinson’s, compared to 1,393 (0.5%) of the diabetes-free participants who developed the disease. This means that people with diabetes developed Parkinson’s at a 60 percent greater rate than people without diabetes.
When researchers took into account other possible contributors to the onset of Parkinson’s, such as weight, smoking habits, and age, diabetes alone still seemed to increase the risk for Parkinson’s by 41 percent.
The diseases are very different. Diabetes is an inflammatory condition that can affect the organs and cardiovascular system. Parkinson’s is a brain disease in which the cells that regulate movement and balance become impaired or die. Theories about a link between them center on the long-term effects of inflammation on the brain or a side effect created by the body’s inability to produce or properly use insulin.
A report on the findings has been published in the April issue of Diabetes Care.