HALF of Alzheimer’s Cases Caused by This: True or False?
Earlier this year, the health news headlines were noisily trumpeting a very suspicious statistic. 40% of all Alzheimer’s cases, the news claimed, were caused by too much insulin or insulin resistance. It made a lot of people sit up and take notice. It scared a lot of people. And it prodded a lot of people into getting their blood sugar tested for “pre-diabetes” who would never have considered it otherwise. Many of them ended up on medication they didn’t want or need.
The spectre of Alzheimer’s will motivate us, it appears, like nothing else.
But where did this number come from? How valid is it? It appeared in some reputable news outlets. And it was presented as gospel truth, with lots of scary supporting statistics—“one-third of the population is pre-diabetic,” for example—yet the number kept changing. From 40%, it grew to “nearly half.” Before long that became just “half” and the fear machine kicked into high gear.
So is this true? Are half of all Alzheimer’s cases really caused by insulin resistance? Or is this just another money grab by Big Pharma and Big Medicine?
You decide. Here’s what you need to know:
Just the facts, ladies and gentlemen
This scary headline isn’t based on a study. It comes from an article. Now, this article did appear in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Research. But what it does is present a new take on existing research. It cites some other studies, and invites us to look at them in a new light. It doesn’t present any new or earthshaking findings. Instead it presents a hypothesis—an educated theory that might explain the root of a subset of Alzheimer’s cases.
And then again, it might not. The author herself says the theory needs verified and she proposes several different tests that should be carried out in order to validate or invalidate it. It’s actually a thoughtful, well-written and well-researched paper and I tip my hat to the author for challenging medicine to think outside the box. She takes the two dominant but opposing theories about why Alzheimer’s develops and shows that there might be an explanation that fits in both cases.
What she never does, anywhere in the paper, is claim that half, “almost half,” or even 40% of Alzheimer’s cases are caused by high insulin. She does cite another study that claims some 39% might be. And granted, the entire paper is based on the idea that Alzheimer’s is a direct result of undiagnosed diabetes, “pre” diabetes, or the so-called “metabolic syndrome” or obesity. But nowhere does the author make any direct statistical claim. Yet this is exactly what all the news stories—including those on sites such as Dementia Today—did.
Now here’s the real kicker: the author of this paper isn’t a doctor. She’s not a biomedical researcher or anything remotely close. She’s not even a scientist.
She’s a professor of “management and organizations” at NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Ladies and gents, I think we may be seeing the early deployment of one of the newest weapons in the war against your health.
This lady isn’t even a scientist, much less an Alzheimer’s researcher
Now, as I said, I’m not saying this is a bad paper, because for the most part it isn’t. I disagree with its conclusions, especially in light of the recent Harvard study showing beta-amyloid plaque is part of the body’s immune response—but we didn’t have that study to hand when this paper was written. What I do have a problem with are the sweeping recommendations and parroting of statistics at the end of the paper.
The author cites American Diabetes Association statistics, saying “of the 29.1 million Americans with diabetes in 2012, 8.1 million (28%) were undiagnosed.” And “86 million Americans are estimated to be pre-diabetic (i.e., have impaired glucose tolerance) and most will have no symptoms that are recognizable without medical testing.”
This sounds pretty scary until you stop to think about it. Consider: If 8.1 million people with diabetes were undiagnosed…then how do we know they have diabetes?
Seriously. It just doesn’t make any kind of sense. It’s a way to inflate the numbers and make an already big problem seem even bigger. The same applies to the second statistic: setting aside the question of whether “pre-diabetes” is even a condition, 86 million are estimated to have pre-diabetes. Estimated by whom? Estimated how? Anyone can estimate anything. Does that make it true?
Nope. It makes it a guess. But it breeds a lot of fear when we read huge numbers like that.
The author then goes on to recommend that everyone have their blood glucose levels tested “early and often” to identify diabetes and pre-diabetes. And THIS is the part of the paper that raises my hackles. Pre-diabetes is the up-and-coming disease of the day. There’s a big push to treat this like actual diabetes. This means putting people who don’t have diabetes diabetes medicine—and often multiple medicines. Expensive medicines. If Big Pharma can force-feed us the “pre-diabetes” story, it stands to make billions upon billions indefinitely.
And I think selling that idea is exactly what this paper is about.
The author has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Her Ph.D. is not in science, but in Strategic Management. As a professor, the courses she teaches are:
- Breakthrough Strategic Thinking
- Strategic Management
- Strategy with a Social Purpose
- Technology and Innovation Management
On her official bio, her “research interests” are listed as
- Technological change and innovation
- Alliances and collaboration strategies
- Cognition, creativity and learning
- Pharmaceutical and biotech innovation
- Technology standards and modularity
- Breakthrough innovators
I don’t see diabetes there, do you? And I don’t see Alzheimer’s either.
So how did she end up writing a headline-generating paper on it? And why on earth did the scientific world give her a pass? If a mathematician wrote a paper on Alzheimer’s, no matter how well-researched it was and how valid the hypothesis, it wouldn’t have made it into a prestigious journal. The scientific world would have simply laughed and ignored it. If a marine biologist had written one the same would happen. But here we have a professor of management who’s captured science headlines in a prestigious journal? Something stinks.
Here’s what I think: This lady is semi-famous in her field. I think she’s been hired to do what she does best: manage. And what she’s managing is a new campaign by Big Pharma to make you more scared, more helpless, and more dependent on their poison.
Are half of all Alzheimer’s cases caused by insulin resistance? I don’t know. And neither does the author of this paper. But even on the off chance that they are, it begs the question: what about the 60% that aren’t?
Don’t buy into the fear. And don’t believe every statistic you read. Your health depends on it.
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