Insulin spray leads to significant benefits for those with dementia, study finds

Taking a man-made form of insulin improved memory and cognition in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, according to recently published findings.

Compared to a control group, those who took the insulin detemir nasal spray for 21 days “showed significant improvement” in being able to retain and process “verbal and visual information” in the short-term, according to a press release issued Thursday.

Improvements were seen even in those people with the APOE-e4 gene, who are “notoriously resistant to other therapies and interventions,” noted lead author Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.

The findings support previous research, which has shown cognitive benefits from taking naturally occurring forms of the hormone. Insulin plays a part in memory processes in addition to regulating blood sugar. Nasal sprays allow it to reach the brain without creating blood sugar imbalance.

Craft said further study of insulin detemir is needed to more firmly establish its “safety and efficacy,” but there were only mild side effects among the 60 people in the Wake Forest trial.

Complete findings are online prior to publication in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.