Tag Archives: diabetes research

A Simple Probiotic Pill May Control Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

4 Feb

Over the past few years, scientists have been intensely studying the flora (a.k.a. bacteria) of the human intestine to unlock the secrets it may hold in influencing our health.

probiotcis diabetes

Scientists at Cornell University in New York have discovered a protein secreted by a particular form of bacteria which can shift control of insulin from the pancreas to the upper intestine. The pancreas is the organ which controls blood glucose levels in healthy individuals.

If a person has type 1 diabetes, their pancreas is unable to produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the person’s cells are unable to utilize insulin correctly. Yet proper insulin control is crucial to health, as the hormone regulates how cells utilize blood sugar (glucose) to produce energy. If insulin is not produced or not utilized correctly, blood sugar remains in the bloodstream, creating a host of side effects.

The Cornell research team, led by Professor John March, engineered a strain of Lactobacillus, a bacteria found in the human gut, to secrete a hormone that triggers the release of insulin in response to food entering the digestive tract.

The team studied blood glucose levels in two sets of rats. One set received a pill form of the live bacteria, which was administered for a 90 day period. The other group of rats received a placebo. The scientists found that the bodies of diabetic rats which had received the treatment had shifted control of blood sugar levels from the pancreas to the upper intestine. They also found that the diabetic rats’ blood glucose levels were up to 30 percent lower than rats which did not receive the pill. But the scientists also discovered that the cells in the upper intestine of the diabetic rats converted into cells which mimicked pancreatic cells – the same cells which secrete insulin in non-diabetics.

Interestingly, in those rats who were not diabetic, no change occurred in blood glucose levels. “If the rat is managing its glucose, it doesn’t need more insulin,”, Professor March said.

It’s important to note that the probiotic used in the research is different from the probiotic dairy products widely available. The next step is to test higher doses of the medicine to establish if the probiotic could reverse diabetes altogether.

Professor March remarked, “If it works really well in people, it could be that they just take a pill and wouldn’t have to do anything else to control their diabetes. It is likely though that it will be used in conjunction with some other treatment.”

The study was published in the journal Diabetes.

Diabetic Tattoo Monitors Blood Glucose

20 Jan diabetes tattoo

Any diabetic will tell you that checking blood glucose readings is a real pain in the finger. Multiple daily “sticks” with a lancet and forcing a drop of blood onto a test strip connected to a blood glucose meter is to say the least, not appealing. It also can be difficult for some patients to perform and the cost of the test strips can become very expensive.

As a result, some diabetics don’t monitor their blood glucose levels as often as they should. Unfortunately, their diabetes healthcare professionals absolutely rely on this method to make sure blood glucose levels of the patient are within normal range.

diabetes tattoo

For these reasons, scientists have spent years searching for a pain-free way for patients to measure their blood glucose levels. Recently, nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego, developed a temporary tattoo which just may do the trick. The tattoo holds a flexible, highly sensitive glucose sensor which uses a mild electrical current to measure blood glucose levels. The tattoo is painless, as it simply contains electrodes printed on thin, disposable tattoo paper.

The concept of a wearable blood glucose sensor is not new, however. In 2002, a similar device was marketed, called GlucoWatch. But the device was discontinued because it caused skin irritation in some patients, a reaction to the strength of the electrical current. But the UC San Diego sensor avoids this problem by using a lower electrical current to measure the glucose. None of the test subjects reported any discomfort while using the device.

“Presently the tattoo sensor can easily survive for a day,” says Amay Bandodkar, a graduate student researcher at UC San Diego. “These are extremely inexpensive—a few cents—and hence can be replaced without much financial burden on the patient.”

The diabetic tattoo was tested at UC San Diego and measured blood glucose levels in healthy patients as accurately as a blood glucose meter. The tattoo’s development is only a few steps away from providing the numerical values of glucose levels which diabetic patients and healthcare professionals are familiar with. This is a very promising step forward in noninvasive glucose testing for those with diabetes.

Philadelphia Top U.S. City For Percentage Of Residents With Diabetes

18 Nov

philadelphia love statue

The news for the residents of Philadelphia is not great when it comes to diabetes. Between 2002-2010, diabetes rates in the most impoverished neighborhoods of the City of Brotherly Love skyrocketed to an unprecedented percentage of population. So much so in fact, that Philadelphia now holds the not-so-wonderful title of largest city in the U.S. with the highest per capita diabetes rate.

Health researchers at Philly’s Drexel University have been studying new ways to pinpoint who is most at risk for diabetes and its most common side effect, heart disease. “Just having diabetes actually increases your risk for heart disease almost as if you’ve had a heart attack already, that’s how profound an effect it is,” said Internist Ana Núñez, a lead member of the Drexel team studying health disparities related to cardiovascular disease.

The map below shows the increase in diabetes rates by zip codes in Philadelphia. The red areas of the map represent diabetes density in the neighborhoods as high as 20.41% of the population, tan as high as 13.97 %, green as high as 10.62%, and blue as high as 7.11%. Even with the most cursory glance at the map, it’s easy to see the increase – for instance, note the lack of blue in 2008-2010 (right), compared to 2002-2004 (left). The red zones also happen to be the most underprivileged neighborhoods in the city.

diabetes rates in philadelphia map

Click on map for a larger view

Part of the work at Drexel’s School of Public Health has focused on the health consequences of living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. No one can ignore the glut of fast food restaurants in these neighborhoods, but the diabetes problem runs much deeper and is more complicated than that. It’s partly education, partly cultural, and partly a lack of resources.

“If you are person with diabetes, and you have to store insulin, it has to be in a refrigerator, and there are places in Philadelphia where residents don’t have resources for a refrigerator. But are you going to say at your doctor’s visit as you get your refill, ‘I don’t have a refrigerator?” Núñez said. She is also studying residents of these neighborhoods who manage to maintain good health and exercise regularly “based upon either family support, headset, motivation, or resources.”

The benefit of this information? It may be useful for policy leaders – both at the municipal, state, federal, and NGO levels – to invest in these regions to discover ways to bring down the diabetes rate and improve health overall.

Can This Drug Reverse Diabetes?

6 Nov

What a thought. A common drug, already on the market to treat a different disease, may be able to reverse the course of diabetes for millions of people.


In type 1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas are attacked by the immune system.

We all know the stats behind diabetes: it’s the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. and contributes to heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease, neuropathy, and a host of other conditions. But researchers at the University of Alabama’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center will soon begin human trials to determine if a common drug prescribed for high blood pressure, verapamil, can stop the progression of diabetes and in some cases reverse it.

More than a decade of research

In 2002, Anath Shalev, M.D., a diabetes researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, started investigating what genes in the human pancreas responded greatest to high levels of blood glucose. In type 1 and type 2 diabetes, certain beta cells in the pancreas – known as islet beta cells – are gradually lost to genetically programmed cell death, for reasons unknown. As these beta cells are lost, diabetes becomes much worse. Shalev’s research on islet beta cells revealed that a gene in these cells was producing a protein called TXNIP, which previous studies showed is overproduced in beta cells in the presence of high blood sugar. Too much TXNIP causes beta cell death and inhibits the body’s natural production of insulin.

For 12 years Shalev continued her research, eventually leaving the U of Wis to head the UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center. Using cell cultures, mouse models, and pancreatic islet cells from humans, Shalev eventually showed that manipulating TXNIP could protect mice against diabetes or make it much worse.

In 2012, building on research from other teams, Shalev started testing verapamil on human islet beta cells. She discovered that the drug reduced TXNIP, and halted the death of beta cells. Shalev also discovered that mice which were fed verapamil in their drinking water actually reversed the course of their diabetes, and the drug protected other mice against diabetes. The following year, Shalev’s team discovered that high levels of TXNIP actually blocked insulin production in beta cells.

Clinical trials begin in 2015

In a recent press release Shalev stated that, “We have shown that verapamil can prevent diabetes and even reverse the disease in mouse models and reduce TXNIP in human islet beta cells, suggesting that it may have beneficial effects in humans as well. That is a proof-of-concept that, by lowering TXNIP, even in the context of the worst diabetes, we have beneficial effects. And all of this addresses the main underlying cause of the disease — beta cell loss.”

Clinical trials will begin soon to see if verapamil has the same effect on human type 1 diabetics as it does on mice. The three-year, $2.1 million trial will be conducted by the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center with funding from JDRF, the largest charitable supporter of type 1 diabetes research.

But Shalev expressed caution regarding the research results: “While in a best-case scenario, the patients would have an increase in beta cells to the point that they produce enough insulin and no longer require any insulin injections — thereby representing a total cure — this is extremely unlikely to happen in the current trial, given its short duration of only one year,” Shalev stated. But she also expressed optimism in regards to the research path. “Finally, we have reason to believe we are on the right track.”

This video simply explains what the UAB reserachers discovered and how dibetes effects beta cells in the pancreas.

3 Resources For Diabetes Awareness Month in November

31 Oct

diabetes awareness month november

Among diabetes organizations, November is known as American Diabetes Month, Diabetes Awareness Month, and even National Diabetes Awareness Day (November 14). Regardless of the name, the purpose is to raise your awareness of this epidemic disease and its risk factors, and learn how you can avoid it or control it.

The startling facts about diabetes:

  • One in 12 Americans – more than 30 million – has diabetes
  • Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the U.S. and worldwide
  • If not controlled, diabetes can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, vascular problems, and foot and lower leg conditions, some leading to amputation
  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion

Those statistics are nothing to take lightly. But if that weren’t bad enough, there’s a bigger crisis looming: Eighty-six million of us have prediabetes, which is chronic, elevated blood sugar levels which aren’t yet considered diabetic, but can quickly become so. Just a little bit of education however, can help you avoid developing diabetes and its many complications. For those already diagnosed with type 1 or type 2, use November to educate yourself about lifestyle changes you can make to control your disease, and schedule appointments with your physicians for an annual screening.

***All diabeteics should receive an annual screening from a podiatrist to look for early signs of numbness or hypersensitivity in the feet, which can be early warning signs of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Visit our website to learn how to prevent diabetc complications in your feet.

Resource 1: The American Diabetes Association’s America Gets Cooking to Stop Diabetes

America Gets Cooking to Stop Diabetes is an initiative designed to engage and inspire people to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. The initiative encourages and empowers you to cook nutritious and delicious food and to be more active, with ideas like Get Moving Mondays and Tasty Tip Tuesdays. Get more info on America Gets Cooking to Stop Diabetes.

Resource 2: The National Diabetes Education Program

NDEP is a partnership of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 200 public and private organizations. Throughout National Diabetes Month, the NDEP will promote “Be Smart About Your Heart: Control the ABCs of Diabetes” to help people with diabetes learn they are at greater risk for heart disease, and how they can lower that risk by managing the diabetes ABCs: the A1C test, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Stop Smoking. Get more info on the National Diabetes Education Program.

Resource 3: JDRF and Thunderclap

JDRF, also known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, is an advocacy organization for raising awareness of Type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune disease one inherits from one or both parents. This November, JDRF is teaming with Thunderclap, a “crowdspeaking” social media platform that integrates with your facebook and twitter accounts. The concept behind Thunderclap is for everyone to share the exact same message on the same days on their social media accounts so that the JDRF posts have a chance to rise above the usual noise of cat memes and “5 Things You Can Do Right Now To…”  posts. Get more info on how you can help JDRF raise awareness for Type 1 diabetes.

Please join us in November in raising awareness of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Read our posts about diabetes

Schedule an appointment with one of our podiatrists for a diabetic foot exam.

Add Green Tea To Your Diet To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

24 Oct

Tea, especially green tea, is the second-most popular beverage in  the world after water (take that, Coke and Pepsi!). You’ve probably heard that green tea has health benefits ranging from sharpening mental focus to helping to prevent cancer, but now it’s also been discovered to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

green tea for diabetes

“People with diabetes have problems metabolizing sugar,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, a cardiologist and director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Through a complex biochemical reaction, tea — especially green tea — helps sensitize cells so they are better able to metabolize sugar. Green tea is good for people with diabetes because it helps the metabolic system function better.”

Research published in Diabetes and Metabolism Journal reviewed a Japanese study which found that people who drank six or more cups of green tea each day were 33 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than were people who drank less than one cup of green tea a week. The study authors also highlighted research from Taiwan which found that people who drank green tea regularly for more than a decade had smaller waists and a lower body fat composition than those who did not drink green tea frequently.

How green tea helps prevent type 2 diabetes

Tea contains substances called polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in many plants, and a magic bullet for good health. Polyphenols help regulate glucose, which helps to prevent or control diabetes. But polyphenols also help reduce oxidative stress and cause arteries to widen, which decreases blood pressure, prevents clotting, and reduces cholesterol. These actions reduce the risk for heart disease, which is a serious concern for diabetics.

All teas, black and green, contain polyphenols. But in green tea, the level of poyphenols is substantially higher. Look for bright colors in fruits and vegetables, and you’ll find high levels of polyphenols. Foods which pack a lot of polyphenols include pomegranates, berries, apples, grapes, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, spinach, red beans, and rhubarb. And oh yea, red wine. And cocoa (dark chocolate only).

Add brightly colored fruits and vegetables to your diet, along with nuts, fish, and green tea, and your diabetes management (and possibly prevention) will be much more successful. A little dark chocolate and red wine won’t hurt either.

Type 2 Diabetes Rate Declines – Except for Blacks and Hispanics

8 Oct

Over the past two decades, the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes in adults doubled. Now for the first time, according to new research from the Centers For Disease Control, the rate has leveled off – at least for some in the population.


The CDC reports that the total number of people living with diabetes increased an average of 0.6 percent annually between 2008 and 2012, to the current 8.3% of adults. Do the math and that’s nearly 21 million people over age 18 with diabetes, in the U.S. alone.

But the rates at which new cases are accumulating have slowed in certain population groups in recent years, a fact also confirmed in a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The CDC researchers said that the change may be due to another positive trend – the stabilization of obesity rates in the U.S.

“We are still seeing new and existing cases of diabetes going up, but the speed at which they are going up is leveling off,” said Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “It gives us hope,” she says. “It’s important that we begin to slow down this runaway train.”

Unfortunately, the rate of type 2 diabetes continues to grow among blacks and Hispanics, the elderly, and those without a college education, according to the JAMA report. Those with a high school education or less were more than twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who have completed college.

What’s being done to slow the growth of type 2 diabetes?

Figures from the CDC show that nearly 48 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and more than 42 percent of Hispanics are obese, making them more vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes. The CDC has had great success with its National Diabetes Prevention Program, a lifestyle change program that can cut a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes in half. However, the continued increase in diabetes rates among blacks, Hispanics and people with less than a high school education, reflects the difficulty in reaching these parts of the population with programs like the NDPP.

Albright sad, “You have to begin to look at things like poverty level, access to diabetes prevention services, and making sure that these services are culturally appropriate and easy for people to access.”

Reaching the Hispanic population

The American Diabetes Association says that roughly 13 percent of U.S. Latinos have diabetes, but many of them are undiagnosed. At Alivio Medical center, on the east side of Indianapolis, great strides have been made in educating their Hispanic patients. There, Fridays and Saturdays are known as “diabetes days”, with a focus on diabetes diagnosis and treatment. According to Dr. Alfredo Lopez-Yunez, he’s seen “… an explosion of new diagnoses. We diagnose maybe 10 new patients a month, which is staggering in this relatively small practice. Even more concerning is that we’re diagnosing them at an earlier age.” Dr. Lopez-Yunez said that type 2 diabetes among Latinos in their 20s and 30s would have been unheard of ten or twenty years ago.

“Right now I’m diagnosing people with Type 2 diabetes in their 20s, and this disease is going to be with them forever,” he said. The result of undiagnosed or unmanaged diabetes may be runaway heart disease, kidney disease, an impact on eye health, neuropathies, foot ulcers, and many other health complications.

What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

9 Jul

Do you know the difference between the two forms of diabetes – commonly called Type 1 and Type 2?

type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes

First, let’s explain what diabetes is. Diabetes Mellitus is a disease which develops when your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is consistently too high. Blood glucose is a necessary component of your blood, as it provides the main source of energy for your body’s cells. It’s derived from the food you eat, like bread, pasta, fruit, some vegetables, rice, potatoes, and cereal, and is also manufactured in your liver and in your muscles.

For blood glucose to be used properly by your cells, you need a hormone called insulin, which is manufactured in your pancreas (located between your stomach and your spine). Insulin acts as a kind of escort for the blood glucose, aiding its absorption by your muscle, liver, and fat cells. It’s absolutely necessary for the conversion of glucose into energy. When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream. The more sugar that enters your bloodstream, the more insulin your pancreas makes.

When your body can’t make enough insulin, or if your cells become resistant to the insulin, the blood glucose can’t find its way into your cells. As a result, the glucose in your blood isn’t turned into energy, and remains in your bloodstream. This is what causes diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes, typically develops in young people as early as 3 years old, but it can also appear in adults. Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, most commonly develops in those over 35. However, in the last twenty years, an alarming spike has been seen in children developing the disease.

The differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and is not caused by diet or lifestyle.  It appears in roughly 10% of all of the people with diabetes. In Type 1, your body makes no insulin or has trouble making insulin, because your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas which manufacture it. If you are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, you’ll have to take insulin for the rest of your life, either through injections or an insulin pump.

Meet Carly Lenett: Type 1 diabetes can’t stop this pre-teen

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with “insulin resistance”, which occurs when your cells have difficulty using insulin to convert glucose into energy. The pancreas is asked to produce more insulin, which at first it does – there is sufficient insulin in the blood. But over time, as the cells become even more resistant to insulin, the pancreas can’t make enough, especially right after meals when blood sugar spikes. Then it becomes impossible to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can be caused by eating too many foods high in sugar, but also has a strong genetic link. Eighty percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Symptoms [of Type 1 or Type 2] include increased urination, thirst or dry mouth, hunger, weight loss despite normal or increased eating, blurred vision, frequent or continuous infections and tingling or pain in the hands, feet or both.”

With either form of diabetes, you’ll need to balance nutrition with exercise and if necessary, weight management (but plenty of slim people develop either form of diabetes). It’s also essential that you regularly check your blood sugar multiple times each day. With Type 2, it may not be possible to reduce your blood sugar sufficiently with diet and exercise, and oral medicine, including insulin, may be required.

If you’re diagnosed with either form of diabetes, it’s essential that you regularly see your family physician, an endocrinologist, and a podiatrist. Many symptoms of diabetic injury are seen first in the feet and toes, and if identified early, can be treated and resolved. If undiscovered, diabetic injury can include Charcot Foot, Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, and other conditions, which may result in partial or complete amputation of a toe, foot, or leg.

To learn more about controlling your diabetes, see all of our posts, or these:

Add yogurt to your diet to fight diabetes

Fried foods may increase your risk of diabetes

Free smartphone apps for diabetics

How to prevent diabetes

Hidden sugars in your food

Drink More coffee if you have diabetes

Walk off your diabetes

Holiday meal plans for diabetics

Eat a hearty breakfast to help control your diabetes

The symptoms of prediabetes

Cakes and cookies actually make you hungrier

Can too much red meat cause diabetes?


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