Diabetes May Be Linked to Parkinson’s Disease
What is the problem and what is known about it so far?
About 10 percent of middle-aged adults and 20 percent of the elderly in the United States have diabetes. This is partly because many people in these age-groups are obese and do not get enough exercise. People with diabetes often suffer from a variety of nervous system problems, including diabetic nerve disease. They are also more likely to get dementia (a loss of mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily activities of living) or Alzheimer’s disease (a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior).
Parkinson’s disease is another nervous system problem. It affects a person’s ability to control their muscles so that they move smoothly and do what they want them to do. It is a serious life-long condition that worsens over time. Researchers have explored possible links between diabetes and Parkinson’s disease but have had wide-ranging results. More study is needed to learn more about diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Why did the researchers do this particular study?
The researchers wanted to learn more about possible links between diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Who was studied?
The study included 288,662 older adults who had participated in a large diet and health study.
How was the study done?
The researchers looked at participants in the diet and health study who either did or did not have diabetes when they joined the study in 1995 or 1996. Then they looked at how many developed Parkinson’s disease after 1995.
What did the researchers find?
People with diabetes were more likely to get Parkinson’s disease. However, the higher risk was mostly found in people who had already had diabetes for more than 10 years.
What were the limitations of the study?
The researchers relied on participants’ self-reports about whether they had Parkinson’s disease and were only able to confirm 88 percent of those reports. Some of the others might have been inaccurate. They also relied on participants’ reports about whether they had diabetes and for how long, which also may not have been accurate. The study did not gather information about diabetes complications and treatments, some of which could have affected participants’ chances of getting Parkinson’s disease. Finally, this study was limited to participants who completed the follow-up survey in the diet and health study. If a greater portion of people with diabetes and Parkinson’s completed the follow-up survey than of those with diabetes but no Parkinson’s disease, this could call the study’s conclusions into question.
What are the implications of the study?
Having diabetes may increase a person’s chances of getting Parkinson’s disease, especially for people who have had diabetes for more than 10 years. However, more study is needed to fully understand the possible links between diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
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