New research

People with Type 2 Diabetes are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those without the condition, a new comprehensive study has found.

According to a British research team, people with Type 2 Diabetes are 32 per cent more likely to develop the illness that causes tremors and impacts the motor system. Their study is the largest body of research to date that links the two health conditions.

The results

Using data from more than 2 million people with a Type 2 diagnosis between 1999 and 2011, researchers from the University College London, Queen Mary University of London and University of Oxford were able to analyse the data with a comparison group of more than 6 million people without type-2 diabetes.

Among the people with diabetes, 14,252 had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease during a later hospital admission, compared with 20,878 in the comparison group.

After excluding people with some similar conditions, and controlling for age, sex and region of residence, they found that people with type 2 diabetes were 32 per cent more likely to have a subsequent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

In Type 2 Diabetes, the patient either does not produce enough insulin to properly adjust the blood sugar level, or their cells do not effectively use the insulin that is produced. As brain cells are particularly reliant on glucose for energy, it has long been speculated that the two diseases could be linked.

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide, that affects an increasing part of the brain and makes it difficult to control movement. It often results in muscle rigidity, tremor and postural instability.

Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect movement. Non-motor symptoms such as pain, sensory changes, changes in the gastrointestinal system, depression and problems with memory, thinking and sleep can also occur and have an impact on the day to day life of the person with Parkinson’s.

Each person is affected differently, and the rate of progression varies greatly between individuals.

The relationship between the two conditions?

Study lead researcher Professor Tom Warner from the Neurology Institute at University College London said it was the most comprehensive evidence to date.

“There is a suspicion that there may be a relationship between Type 2 Diabetes and Parkinson’s for some time,” Professor Warner said.

“We can now say more definitely that there is a link between diabetes and Parkinson’s, but we need to do more research to understand the relationship, whether it is genetics, on the brain, or both.”

It is estimated about 10 million people worldwide currently live with Parkinson’s Disease, and 371 million have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Do you have diabetes, or do you know someone who does?