Schizophrenia and Diabetes: A Bigger Picture

Schizophrenia and Diabetes: A Bigger Picture: We recently reported that the schizophrenia drug Seroquel might be linked to cases of diabetes due to what appears to be noticeable weight gain in patients that use the AstraZeneca drug. Since obesity is often linked to diabetes the research indicated the weight gain might be the causal link to diabetes.

While many have considered hidden research on the subject to cast a very negative light on the drugs effectiveness there is new research that may point to a bigger picture. reported that, “People with schizophrenia are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.” This was the finding of researchers at Medical College of Georgia along with scientists at the University of Barcelona in Spain and the University of Maryland.

This research was conducted on 50 patients newly diagnosed with schizophrenia prior to taking any medications used for the treatment of the condition. What researchers found was, when no other risk factors were present, “16 percent [of patients] had either diabetes or an abnormal rate of glucose metabolism.” This was the finding of Dr. Brian Kirkpatrick, vice chair of the MCG Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior.

This is significant because a separate control group of similar size, utilizing patients without schizophrenia, indicated no signs of diabetes.

Kirkpatrick told, “These findings point toward there being some shared environmental factors or genetic factors between the development of schizophrenia and diabetes.” Those conditions had to be something other than a drug used to treat schizophrenia since none in the control group had ever used the drug.

The information concerning Seroquel and other drugs was important to researchers because they knew that the drug seemed to have a weight gain side effect. Catching patients before drug treatment for schizophrenia seemed to be the only logical way to determine what links might exist between schizophrenia and diabetes.

It has long been thought that depression and diabetes go hand in hand. It has also been long believed that schizophrenia and diabetes might be connected. This research sought to answer that question in some definitive way.

A second study indicates, “The prevalence rate of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that include abdominal obesity, high lipid and cholesterol blood levels and insulin resistance, is more than 50 percent in women and about 37 percent in men with schizophrenia.” These factors are significant in the development of diabetes.

There is a third facet to the potential development of schizophrenia. This dynamic happens before a child is born. Dr. Kilpatrick noted, “Many people focus on the brain function part of the disease, but patients also have other medical problems that can’t be attributed to other factors. Bad things that happen in utero and at birth, such as prenatal famine and low birth weight, have both been shown to increase the risk of diabetes and schizophrenia. Problems in early development can leave a lasting impact.”

Add to this the recent discovery that Alzheimer’s may be diabetes of the brain and you can begin to see the impact insulin has on every facet of the body.

It appears the care of the human body must begin in utero. Low birth weight babies and the care the mother takes with her own health appear to be common threads in the long-term health success of the child. In most cases this is simply common sense, but it’s interesting to see research that tends to support many of the ideals passed along by earlier generations. The advantage we have is the accumulated knowledge of why the care is important and how it may affect all individuals involved.