Diabetes and Schizophrenia are two very distinct and diverse medical disorders. Schizophrenia is purely a psychiatric disorder whereas diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Can there be a link between the two disorders. Statistics have shown that Diabetes is two to four times more common in patients with schizophrenia as compared to general population. What can be the possible relationship?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic disorders affecting almost all systems of the body caused by impaired glucose metabolism due to deficiency or absence of the hormone insulin. It affects the micro and macro-circulation of all organ systems of the body including the brain. Whereas Schizophrenia is a multi-faceted psychiatric disorder characterized by abnormalities in perception and thought disorders including delusions and hallucinations. It affects young adults and may lead to loss of personality, confusion, agitation, social withdrawal or even psychosis. In both the disorders there is some degree of cognitive impairment that is memory loss. Clinical studies have shown that there is immediate or short term memory and attention deficit in people suffering from both diabetes and schizophrenia as compared to diabetes alone or schizophrenia alone. This study was published in scientific journal PLoS one. There is an increase in rate as well as magnitude of memory loss in patients suffering from both the disorders at the same time.
The memory deficit in diabetes may be explained on the basis of the fact that glucose is the main source of energy for all the brain functions. In diabetic patients glucose is present in excess in the blood but it cannot be transported to the brain and other organs in the absence of glucose transporter insulin. In the absence of the energy source glucose, all the functions of the brain are impaired. The most commonly noticed symptom is short term memory loss or attention deficit. In later stages it can lead to neuronal atrophy leading to dementia. This could also reflect that memory deficit seen in schizophrenia can be due to deficiency in glucose regulation and improvement in glucose metabolism could improve these deficits.
A joint study by University of Wollongong Australia and Beijing’s HuilongGuan hospital has led to the results that prevention and treatment of diabetes in schizophrenic patients can lead to better cognitive outcomes. This will improve the quality of life in schizophrenia patients and they can participate in daily life activities and can be restored back into workforce. This study also shows that chemical teasponin found in green tea and DHA found in fish oil is also helpful in reducing brain inflammation that is linked with cognitive impairment in diabetes and obesity.