In recent research funded by Cure Parkinson’s, scientists have provided the strongest evidence to date that diabetes can affect the progression of Parkinson’s.

Diabetes is a condition that affects the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change food into energy. It is caused by problems with a protein called insulin. Our cells need insulin to be able to absorb glucose which is used for energy; insulin acts like a key that unlocks cells to allow glucose to enter. In diabetes insulin no longer works properly, glucose is not absorbed into cells and levels build up in the blood.

Researchers have known for a long time that there is a relationship between Parkinson’s and diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than non-diabetic people, and people with Parkinson’s are more likely to have diabetes than people without Parkinson’s.

In this new study, the researchers wanted to better understand the influence that diabetes might have on the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms. Using data from the longitudinal Tracking Parkinson’s study, they conducted analyses of patients’ data over 36 months.

They found that people with Parkinson’s who also had diabetes experienced more severe motor and non-motor symptoms over time; this is the largest study to date to provide evidence that diabetes is associated with faster progression of Parkinson’s symptoms.

In the discussion section of their report, the researchers emphasised that diabetes is a potentially modifiable state, and their research provides further justification for ongoing clinical trials exploring the use of diabetes treatments as potential disease-modifying therapies for Parkinson’s. The Cure Parkinson’s supported exenatide and liraglutide studies are examples of these trials.

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