Drink to That: How to Safely Consume Alcohol with Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Cheryl Alkon

We’re already thinking about carbs and calories all the time, and adding alcohol into the mix makes things more complex. ­Experts share their best advice on how to safely drink when living with diabetes.

People who choose to drink alcohol typically do so for a few main reasons: to cope with challenges, to be sociable, or just because they enjoy having a drink. But while alcohol may make some people feel more comfortable, drinking can be especially complicated for people with diabetes. If you’re choosing to drink with friends or loved ones, let’s talk about how you can do so safely with diabetes.

First, alcohol is a drug, and it can be highly addictive. If you don’t drink now, there’s no reason to start. In fact, avoiding alcohol is the healthiest choice for people with or without diabetes. Drinking more than is healthy for the body has been linked to issues in the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system and is associated with several kinds of cancer, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking is also connected to other health problems, such as unintentional injuries (car accidents, falls, drownings), domestic violence, alcohol use disorders, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, with all that said, how can you best manage your diabetes if you choose to drink?

What happens in the body when you drink?

Your liver works to create glucose when your blood sugar levels are low, but it also processes any alcohol present in your body, says Sandra Arevalo, a certified diabetes care and education specialist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. More specifically, “Alcohol gets broken down by your liver. The liver is also in charge of making sugar when your blood sugar levels are low, by converting stored glycogen into glucose, and releasing that glucose into your bloodstream. When you drink, your liver is busy processing the alcohol and has a hard time producing glucose,” she said.

This process “puts people with diabetes at high risk of low blood sugar when they drink,” Arevalo said. “If you are on basal insulin, you may not make enough glucose for the amount of basal insulin you have taken, and you may suffer a hypoglycemic episode.” This applies primarily to people with type 1 diabetes, but people with type 2 diabetes are still at risk for low blood glucose levels when they drink.

What’s in a drink?

That’s a tricky question. What you are drinking and how much of it you choose to drink can make a big difference. Like most things with diabetes, there aren’t simple answers.

According to the CDC, moderate drinking is defined as two drinks or less per day for men, or one drink or less per day for women. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends one drink or fewer per day for people of any gender. It is illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol in the United States.

Drinking

Image source: diaTribe

What does the CDC classify as “a drink?” One drink contains 14 grams, or 0.6 ounces, of pure alcohol, which normally equates to 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor or spirits such as gin, rum, vodka or whiskey.

What influences your intoxication?

Several factors – including diabetes medications, food, and exercise – can all make things even more complicated, said Carrie S. Swift, a dietician and spokesperson with the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. “Overall, alcohol intake leads to less predictable blood glucose whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes,” she said. But “the impact of alcohol on blood glucose isn’t always the same.”

This can be caused by:

  • Carbohydrate content of drinks: Beer and sweet wines contain a lot of carbohydrates, and can increase your blood sugar level despite the alcohol content. On the other hand, quickly cutting down your intake of these drinks, or quickly making the switch to dry wine or spirits, can carry a high risk of hypoglycemia.
  • Diabetes drugs: Insulin and sulfonylurea medications such as glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride – all of which help to lower blood glucose levels – “are more likely to cause low blood glucose when alcohol is consumed,” said Swift. Insulin and alcohol work similarly whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you take metformin, pay attention to these specific symptoms when you are drinking: weakness, fatigue, slow heart rate, muscle pain, shortness of breath, or dark urine. “Excessive alcohol intake while taking metformin may increase the risk of a rare, but dangerous condition, called lactic acidosis. If you have these symptoms – get medical help right away,” she said. There are no specific or predictable ways that blood glucose levels react when taking other oral diabetes medications or GLP-1 medications, Swift added.
  • Food: “If you drink on an empty stomach, you are more likely to experience hypoglycemia,” said Swift. Yet, eating while drinking “may also increase your blood glucose, especially if you eat more than usual or make less healthy food choices when you drink.”
  • Exercise: If you are physically active either before or after drinking alcohol, it can cause your blood sugars to drop and lead to hypoglycemia.

What and how are you drinking?

If you have diabetes and choose to drink, what should you keep in mind?

  • Alcoholic drinks can have as much added sugar as some desserts, so think about what kinds of drinks you are having. “It’s best not to choose alcohol mixed with punches or soft drink mixers, such as Pepsi, Sprite, or Coke, daiquiris, margaritas, or sweetened liquors like Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream,” said Swift. Regular beer and sweet wines are also higher in carbohydrates. “These drinks not only add carbohydrate, but excess calories from the added sugars,” she said.
  • If you have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), use it. While you are drinking, you can see where your glucose is at all times and if it drops quickly. If you don’t have a CGM, “test your blood sugar more often,” said Arevalo. “Mainly if you are not feeling well, you want to know if your sugar is dropping, or if you are getting drunk. Even though both feel equally bad, you will want to know if your sugars are low so you can correct them quickly.”
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Instead, “Have a good meal before or during drinking,” said Arevalo. But know the carb count of what you are eating and work with your healthcare professional to determine how to take medication for that meal along with the alcohol you are consuming.
  • Exercise and alcohol can make your numbers plummet. “Avoid drinking while dancing or exercising,” said Arevalo. “Physical activity helps to reduce blood sugar levels, and if the liver is not able to keep up with the production of glucose, the risk of hypoglycemia is even higher.”
  • Have your supplies handy, such as a hypoglycemia preparedness kit. Always bring your blood glucose testing kit and enough supplies for you to test frequently. It’s a good idea to have extra test strips, alcohol swabs, lancets, as well as fast-acting forms of glucose, including emergency glucagon in case your blood sugar level doesn’t come up with food or glucose.
  •  If you take basal insulin in the evening, it’s not an easy answer on what to do if you plan to consume alcohol that evening, said Swift. “Depending on what type of diabetes the person has, and other factors, the results of drinking and taking a long-acting insulin before going out, may contribute to a different result,” she said. If you have type 1 and you take your usual amount of long-acting insulin and then you drink alcohol, “It may contribute to delayed hypoglycemia when drinking too much alcohol,” she said. If you have type 2 diabetes and are overweight or have significant insulin resistance, “Taking your usual amount of long-acting insulin may be a good strategy to avoid high blood glucose numbers,” she said. “No matter what your type of diabetes, frequent blood glucose checking will help you take the right action to avoid high or low blood glucose when choosing to drink alcohol.”
  • If you use an insulin pump or a CGM, make sure you check that they are working properly before you leave the house, without any low-power indicators. If you need to fill your pump with insulin or change out either your infusion set or CGM sensor, do it before you begin drinking or get drunk. As Dr. Jeremy Pettus and Dr. Steve Edelman say in this video, “Protect yourself from drunk you as much as you possibly can.”

It’s important for everyone to avoid getting drunk to the point of not being able to protect yourself. For people with diabetes, this includes protecting yourself from hypoglycemia.

Navigating social situations

If you find yourself in situations where people around you are drinking, or your friends like to party, there are ways to fit in without feeling left out:

  • “It’s okay to choose sparkling water with lemon or a diet soda instead of an alcoholic drink in a social setting,” said Swift. “If you do choose to drink alcohol, have a glass of water, or another no-calorie beverage between alcohol-containing drinks.” It’s also okay to hold a drink and not consume it, if that makes you more comfortable.
  • Tell a trusted friend ahead of time where you keep your supplies, such as your blood glucose monitor or CGM reader, how to get glucose tabs or juice if you need it, and, if necessary, how to give emergency glucagon, either by injection or by nasal inhalation, said Arevalo. It’s also good to have a designated non-drinker in your group, who can watch out for everyone’s safety. And be sure the group you are with knows that the signs of a low blood sugar and the signs of being drunk are the same, said Swift: slurred speech, blurry vision, dizziness, confusion, lack of coordination, irritability, and potentially, loss of consciousness.
  • Make sure you’re hanging out with people you want to be with, and consider where drinking fits in to your health goals and your life. “Friends are only friends if they accept you the way you are and help to take care of you,” said Arevalo. “If you feel peer-pressured to drink, let them know that you have to take care of yourself because of your diabetes. Good friends will respond in a positive way, and will understand and help you. If you want to have a good time and don’t want to keep an eye on how much you are drinking, alert your friends about your diabetes. Let them know where you have your supplies, how to use them, and who to call and what to do in case of an emergency.” Remember, never drive if you (or your driver) have been drinking.

Finally, if you’re going to drink, be smart about it. Always start with a blood glucose level that’s at a healthy, in-range level, sip—don’t chug—your alcohol, and avoid drinking to excess. Your body, your brain, and your diabetes will all be easier to manage once you’re done drinking, either for the evening, the event, or for good.

About Cheryl

Cheryl Alkon is a seasoned writer and the author of the book Balancing Pregnancy With Pre-Existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. The book has been called “Hands down, the best book on type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, covering all the major issues that women with type 1 face. It provides excellent tips and secrets for achieving the best management” by Gary Scheiner, the author of Think Like A Pancreas. Since 2010, the book has helped countless women around the world conceive, grow and deliver healthy babies while also dealing with diabetes.

Cheryl covers diabetes and other health and medical topics for various print and online clients. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a graduate degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

She has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than four decades, since being diagnosed in 1977 at age seven.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Getting Started with Insulin if You Have Type 2 Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Frida Velcani

New to insulin? Learn about insulin dosing and timing and how often to test your blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is likely that your treatment regimen will change over time as your needs change, and at some point, your healthcare professional may suggest that you start taking insulin. While this might feel scary, there are millions of others living with type 2 diabetes and taking insulin, so it’s definitely manageable.

Click to jump down:

Why do some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin?

Type 2 diabetes can progress with time, which means that it gets more difficult for a person’s body to regulate glucose levels. The body’s many cells become less responsive to insulin (called increased insulin resistance), and the specific cells in the pancreas that produce insulin make less of it (called beta cell insufficiency). This is not necessarily related to a person’s diabetes management, and it is likely not possible to prevent.

For many people, adjusting lifestyle factors such as a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity are key to keeping blood glucose levels stable and in a target range. Healthcare professionals may also recommend that people with type 2 diabetes take additional medications like metforminDPP-4 inhibitorsSGLT-2 inhibitors, or GLP-1 agonists to their treatment plan to improve glucose management, reduce A1C, lose weight, or support heart and kidney health.

When do people with type 2 diabetes start insulin?

After 10 to 20 years, many people with type 2 diabetes will begin insulin therapy, although every person’s journey with type 2 diabetes is different. This happens when lifestyle changes and medications aren’t keeping your glucose levels in your target range. It is important that you start treatment as early as possible to avoid persistent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which can lead to long-term health complications affecting your heart, kidneys, eyes, and other organs.

What are the different types of insulin?

The key to transitioning to insulin is knowing your options. Some people taking insulin need to use both a basal (long-acting) and a prandial (rapid-acting or “mealtime”) insulin each day, while others may only need to use basal insulin. Learn about your options here.

  • Basal (long-acting) insulins are designed to be injected once or twice daily to provide a constant background level of insulin throughout the day. Basal insulins help keep blood sugars at a consistent level when you are not eating and through the night but cannot cover carbohydrates (carbs) eaten for meals or snacks or glucose spikes after meals.
    • Some people use other medications, like GLP-1 agonists, to help cover mealtimes. GLP-1/basal combination treatments for people with type 2 diabetes combine basal insulin with GLP-1 agonist medication in one daily injection. This combination can effectively lower glucose levels while reducing weight gain and risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Learn more here.
  • Prandial (rapid-acting or “mealtime”) insulins are taken before mealtime and act quickly to cover carbohydrates eaten and bring down high sugar levels following meals. Ultra-rapid-acting prandial insulins can act even more rapidly in the body to bring down glucose levels. Rapid and ultra-rapid insulins are also taken to correct high glucose levels when they occur or are still persistent a few hours after a meal.
  • Basal and prandial insulins are both analog insulins, meaning they are slightly different in structure from the insulin naturally produced in the body. Analog insulins have certain characteristics that can be helpful for people with diabetes. Human insulins, on the other hand, were developed first and are identical to those produced by the human body. Human insulins are classified as regular (short-acting insulin) or NPH (intermediate-acting). These are generally cheaper than analog insulins and can be bought without a prescription at some pharmacies.

Although many people use both basal and prandial insulin – which is called multiple daily injections of insulin (MDI) and consists of one or two injections of basal insulin each day as well as prandial insulin at meals – people with type 2 diabetes who are beginning insulin therapy may only need basal insulin to manage their glucose levels. Basal insulin requires fewer injections and generally causes less hypoglycemia. For these reasons, many healthcare professionals recommend basal insulin when you first start insulin therapy.

How do I take and adjust my insulin doses?

It is important to learn the different methods of taking insulin and what kinds of insulin can be delivered through each method. There are several ways to take insulin – syringe, pen, pump, or inhalation – though injection with a syringe is currently the most common for people with type 2 diabetes. There are many apps that can help you calculate your insulin doses.

  • Insulin pens are considered easier and more convenient to use than a vial and syringe. There are different brands and models of insulin pens available. Smart pens are becoming increasingly common and can help people manage insulin dosing and tracking. They connect to your smartphone and help you remember when you took your last dose, how much insulin you took, and when to take your next one.
  • Insulin pumps are attached to your body and can be programmed to administer rapid-acting insulin throughout the day, to cover both basal and prandial insulin needs. When you need to take insulin for meals or to correct high glucose, calculators inside the pump can help determine the correct dosage after you’ve programmed them with your personal insulin pump settings.
  • Inhaled insulin is ultra-rapid acting insulin and can replace insulin used for mealtime and corrections of high glucose. It is taken through an inhaler and works similarly to injected prandial insulin. People with diabetes who do not want to inject prandial insulin might use this, but it’s not for people who only use basal insulin. The only approved inhaled insulin on the market is the ultra-rapid-acting mealtime insulin Afrezza.

Your insulin regimen should be tailored to fit your needs and lifestyle. Adjusting your basal insulin dosage and timing will require conversations and frequent follow-up with your healthcare team. When initiating insulin therapy, you may be advised to start with a low dose and increase the dose in small amounts once or twice a week, based on your fasting glucose levels. People with diabetes should aim to spend as much time as possible with glucose levels between 70-180 mg/dl. Insulin may be used alone or in combination with oral glucose-lowering medications, such as metformin, SGLT-2 inhibitors, or GLP-1 agonists.

One of the most important things to consider is the characteristics of different insulin types. To learn more, read “Introducing the Many Types of Insulin – Is There a Better Option for You?” and discuss with your healthcare team.

In order to dose insulin to cover meals or snacks, you have to take a few factors into consideration. Your healthcare team should help you determine what to consider when calculating an insulin dose. Prandial insulin doses will usually be adjusted based on:

  • Current blood sugar levels. You’ll aim for a “target” blood sugar, and you should know your “sensitivity” per unit of insulin to correct high blood sugar levels.
    • Insulin sensitivity factor (ISF) or correction factor:  how much one unit of insulin is expected to lower blood sugar. For example, if 1 unit of insulin will drop your blood sugar by 25 mg/dl, then your insulin sensitivity factor is 1:25. Your ISF may change throughout the day – for example, many people are more insulin resistant in the morning, which requires a stronger correction factor.
  • Carbohydrate intake. Insulin to carb ratios represent how many grams of carbohydrates are covered by one unit of insulin. You should calculate your carbohydrate consumptions for each meal.
    • Insulin to carbohydrate ratio:  the number of grams of carbs “covered” by one unit of insulin. For example, a 1:10 insulin to carbohydrate ratio means one unit of insulin will cover every 10 grams of carbohydrates that you eat. For a meal with 30 grams of carbohydrates, a bolus calculator will recommend three units of insulin.
  • Physical activity. Adjust insulin doses before, and possibly after, exercise – learn more about managing glucose levels during exercise here.

Learning to adjust your own insulin doses may be overwhelming at first, especially given the many factors that affect your glucose levels. Identifying patterns in your glucose levels throughout the day may help you optimize the timing and dosing of your insulin. Your healthcare professional, a certified diabetes care and education specialist, or insulin pump trainer (if you use a pump), can help guide you through this process. Do not adjust your insulin doses without first talking to your healthcare team.

How often should I test my blood sugar?

The frequency of testing will depend on your health status and activities during the day. Initially, you may be advised to check your blood glucose three to four times a day. As a starting point, check in with your healthcare team about how often to check your blood sugar. Many people test before meals, exercise, bedtime, and one to two hours after meals to ensure that they bolused their insulin correctly. Over time, your fasting, pre-meal, and post-meal blood glucose levels will help you figure out how to adjust your insulin doses.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are particularly useful for tracking changes in glucose levels throughout the day. Some CGM devices also connect with an insulin pump to automatically adjust insulin delivery. After you start a treatment plan, the goal for most people is to spend as much time as possible in their target range. Talk with your healthcare professional about starting CGM and developing glucose targets.

What else do I need to know about taking insulin?

It’s common to experience minimal discomfort from needle injections or skin changes at the insulin injection site. You may also experience side effects of insulin therapy, which can include some weight gain and hypoglycemia. In some people, insulin increases appetite and stops the loss of glucose (and calories) in the urine, which can lead to weight gain. Hypoglycemia can occur if you are not taking the right amount of insulin to cover your carb intake, over-correcting high glucose levels, exercising, or consuming alcohol. Treating hypoglycemia also adds more calories to your daily intake and can further contribute to weight gain. Contact your healthcare professional to adjust your insulin dose if you are experiencing hypoglycemia, or call 911 if you experience more serious side effects, such as severe low blood sugar levels, serious allergic reactions, swelling, or shortness of breath.

Staying in contact with your healthcare team is the best way to make the transition to insulin therapy. Though the first few days or weeks will be challenging, with the right support, you’ll find a diabetes care plan that works for you.

If you were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, check out more resources here.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Will Insulin in a Pill Soon Become a Reality?

Since insulin was first discovered and isolated for therapeutic use nearly 100 years ago, most everyone with insulin-dependent diabetes has had to rely on exogenous insulin, given in the form of injections, whether via an insulin pump or multiple daily shots every single day of their lives (inhalable insulin was approved by the FDA in 2014, but its use is not widespread).

While research and development have come a long way in that time, the reality for millions (and over 7 million people in the United States alone) has been thousands upon thousands of invasive injections, oftentimes causing scarring, bruising, and pain. However, that may be about to change.

Researchers from the New York University in Abu Dhabi have successfully developed a pill using nanomaterial layers that disseminate insulin in rats safely without being destroyed by their stomach acids. This could be life-changing for the millions of people around the world who rely on insulin to live.

“Imagine being able to take insulin in a pill instead of injecting it a couple of times a day,” said first author Farah Benyettou, a research scientist in the Trabolsi Research Group at the New York University in Abu Dhabi. “The insulin was loaded in a system that protects it from the acidic environment of the stomach. Once in the body, the system can sense the blood sugar level and can release the loaded insulin on demand.”

A pill form of insulin has the potential to radically change the daily management of diabetes for the better: It would make treatment easier for children and people with a fear of needles, safer for both patients and clinicians in hospital and clinic settings, more effective, and patient-friendly.

Nearly 30% of people with diabetes rely on insulin injections, and while it might not be for everyone, this revolutionary advancement would be the first of its kind in the world.

Other attempts at orally administering insulin have been made in the past but faced roadblocks in the gastrointestinal tract, where stomach acids and bile quickly destroy insulin and any effectiveness it has.

This is different from common type 2 diabetes drugs like Metformin that aren’t insulin but simply improve the efficacy of insulin that their body already makes.

The research team in Abu Dhabi thinks it has solved the problem of the insulin-destroying stomach bile issue by encapsulating insulin within nCOF nanoparticles in a capsule that is resistant to such acids but responsive to sugar, reacting quickly when it senses blood glucose in the body is rising but survives the dangerous journey down the G.I. tract to reach the bloodstream.

This new advancement also has the potential to reduce or eliminate low blood sugars, as the release of insulin shuts off as soon as it senses blood sugars have fallen. This creates a helpful feedback loop and prevents an overdose of insulin, which for many, is an almost a daily occurrence on injections, where people are constantly walking a balance beam to prevent both high and low blood sugars in a world of stress, meals, exercise, and normal everyday living.

While this is all excellent news, it’s important to remember that the study’s success was only observed in rats, and human bodies are very different. The team will next test different nanomaterials to see what may be appropriate for human trials, and potentially, widespread market availability.

“Our revolutionary technology developed at NYUAD will dramatically improve the well-being of diabetic patients worldwide in a very simple and straightforward way,” says senior author Ali Trabolsi, an associate professor of chemistry at the New York University in Abu Dhabi.

While taking a daily insulin pill may is far from a functional cure, managing diabetes could become easier than ever, especially if the threat of low blood sugars is greatly reduced or eliminated.

The team hopes that diabetes management can soon be a lot less stressful, painful, and dangerous for the millions of people around the world who currently rely on insulin.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Metformin, But Were Afraid to Ask

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Marcia Kadanoff and Timothy Hay

Starting on metformin? My journey as a type 2 of learning how to deal with side effects, “faux lows,” and learning more about this therapy. 

Editor’s note: this article is in Marcia’s perspective of living with type 2 diabetes, as written by Timothy Hay in January 2019. It was updated in March 2021.

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 58, my doctor immediately put me on metformin, a medication I didn’t know much about.

I soon learned why metformin is considered the first line of defense for people with the condition, as it is safe, effective, and affordable. It’s not linked to weight gain and it puts very little stress on the internal organs. I also read that metformin has side effects for some people.

I expected it to work like insulin in pill form and drop my blood sugar (around 180 mg/dl at the time) right away. But metformin doesn’t work like that. Not at all.

I learned – as millions of people with type 2 diabetes have – that metformin doesn’t immediately lower your blood sugar. It can take four or five days to experience the full benefit, depending on your dosage.

It might not solve all your problems in the blink of an eye. But it is an effective medicine, and its interaction with the body is complex and interesting.

Want more information like this?

What We Know About Metformin

Metformin, which is also sold under the trade names Glucophage, Fortamet, Glumetza, and Riomet, is of the class of drugs called biguanides, which inhibit the production of glucose in the liver.

How does metformin work?

The medicine does not increase insulin levels in the body, but instead lessens the amount of sugar the body produces and absorbs. As it lowers glucose production in the liver, metformin also lowers blood sugar by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It also decreases the amount of glucose that our bodies absorb from the foods we eat.

What is metformin used for?

Metformin is commonly used to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. For most, metformin works to bring down blood sugar gradually when combined with a healthy diet and exercise (I found Adam Brown’s book, Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me to be helpful, particularly in deciding what to eat and not to eat). It’s not so much a quick fix with overnight results as it is an important component of a larger health regimen that keeps the condition manageable.

Is metformin safe?

Metformin is considered a safe, cheap, and effective medication worldwide, and is widely accessible in most countries.

What are the most common side effects of metformin?

Metformin does cause side effects in some people, but many of these are mild, and are associated with taking the medicine for the first time. Nausea and gastric distress such as stomach pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea are somewhat common among people starting up on metformin.

For some people, taking large doses of metformin right away causes gastric distress, so it’s common for doctors to start small and build the dosage up over time. Many people start with a small metformin dose – 500 milligrams once a day – and build up over a few weeks until the dosage reaches least 1,500 milligrams daily. This means there’s less chance of getting an upset stomach from the medicine, but also means it may take a bit longer to experience the full benefit when getting started on metformin.

I experienced some mild side effects when I started taking metformin, and I found that the symptoms correlated with how many carbs I had in my diet. Once I dropped my carbs to 30-50 grams per day – something that took me weeks to do – any symptoms of gastric upset went away.

Asking your doctor for the extended-release version of metformin can keep these symptoms at bay, and so can tracking your diet.

What is the best time to take metformin?

Standard metformin is taken two or three times per day. Be sure to take it with meals to reduce the stomach and bowel side effects that can occur – most people take metformin with breakfast and dinner.

Extended-release metformin is taken once a day and should be taken at night, with dinner. This can help to treat high glucose levels overnight.

What are less common side effects of metformin?

The medication can cause more serious side effects, though these are rare. The most serious of these is lactic acidosis, a condition caused by buildup of lactic acid in the blood.  This can occur if too much metformin accumulates in the blood due to chronic or acute (e.g. dehydration) kidney problems. Severe acute heart failure, or severe liver problems can also result in a lactate imbalance.

Metformin can also increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), particularly for those who take insulin and drugs which increase insulin secretion (such as sulfonylureas), but also when combined with excessive alcohol intake. Even though I’m not on insulin, I started on continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to be able to keep a closer eye on my blood sugar levels. Of course, regular checking with a blood glucose meter is also helpful in preventing low blood sugar episodes.

Because long-term use of metformin can block absorption of vitamin B12, causing anemia, sometimes people need to supplement vitamin B12 through their diet as well.

For most people who take metformin, side effects are mild and relatively short in duration.

Metformin

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The “Faux Low”

There is another common side effect often experienced by people taking metformin for the first time. It’s something called a “faux low.”

A faux low happens when you drop your blood sugars to a “normal” range after running consistently high (i.e. above 180 mg/dl), whether by starting on a therapy like metformin or going on a low-carb diet, or both! Your body responds to this change as if it’s in real hypoglycemia (below 70 mg/dl).

Although every person with diabetes has a different blood-sugar threshold and different symptoms, people often feel irritable, tired, shaky, and dizzy when their blood sugar is 70 mg/dl or lower. When I experienced faux lows, I felt similarly dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, and extremely hungry.

Tool

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If you experience symptoms like these and have confirmed with a glucose meter the low you are feeling is indeed false (i.e. your meter says you’re at 96 mg/dl), keep taking your metformin as directed. Don’t start carb-loading (eating carb-rich foods like orange juice to bring sugars back up).

If I’m indeed having a faux low and not a real one, I found that drinking water and taking a high-sodium, non-carbohydrate snack (nuts are great for this, especially macadamia nuts which are high in fat) nips the symptoms in the bud, allowing me to move on with my life.

Note that especially for type 2 folks out there on metformin and insulin or sulfonylureas, hypoglycemia is a real risk. If you’re feeling low, check your blood sugar – there will be times when you do need to treat hypoglycemia with glucose tablets or orange juice or the like.

Metformin interactions: what should I avoid while taking metformin?

When taken at the same time, some drugs may interfere with metformin. Make sure your healthcare team is aware of any medications that you take before you start on metformin, especially certain types of diuretics and antibiotics. Remember, insulin and insulin releasing medications can increase your risk of hypoglycemia, so it is particularly important to carefully monitor your glucose levels.

You should also avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol while taking metformin – aim for no more than one glass per day for women, and two per day for men. Alcohol can contribute to lactic acidosis.

Does metformin cause cancer?

In 2019 the FDA investigated whether some forms of metformin contain high levels of a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). In 2020, the FDA recommended the recall of several versions of extended-release metformin, and more than a dozen companies have since voluntarily recalled certain lots of the medication. While low levels of NDMA are commonly found in foods and drinking water, high levels of the substance are toxic and can cause cancer.

You can check to see if your metformin has been recalled here. For people taking extended-release metformin, the FDA recommends that you continue to take your medication until you talk to your healthcare professional.

Other Possible Metformin Benefits

Most people with type 2 diabetes tolerate metformin well and are glad it’s available in generic form, which keeps the price low. The medication is so effective as a first-line therapy the American Diabetes Association includes it in its diabetes Standards of Care.

But metformin could have additional uses and benefits outside of treating type 2 diabetes.

Researchers are currently studying whether the medicine can help in the fight against cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, vision problems like macular degeneration, and even aging. It will be a while, however, before uses other than blood-glucose lowering are proven to be effective.

At the same time, metformin is also used in the treatment of gestational diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome.

The American Diabetes Association has said more doctors should be prescribing metformin to treat prediabetes (a state of higher-than-normal blood glucose levels that doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria for diabetes), especially for people under the age of 60, although the FDA has yet to bless metformin’s use for the condition.

Can metformin cause weight loss?

The FDA has also not officially approved metformin as an aid in losing weight. Many people with type 2 diabetes have lost weight after taking the drug, as researchers are still torn over exactly how metformin affects the weight. Some believe it decreases appetite, while others say it affects the way the body stores and uses fat.

Scientists are also examining metformin’s potential to protect against heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes – some older data supports this. While robust heart outcome trials with metformin are yet to be conducted, more attention is being paid to this research area.

Metformin and type 1 diabetes

It will be an exciting development if metformin is helpful in the treatment of cancer or neurodegenerative conditions like Huntington’s. But what if it is found to help people managing type 1 diabetes?

Metformin is not currently approved by US or European regulatory agencies for use in type 1s, but people have been known to take the medication anyway, and many doctors prescribe it if someone with type 1 diabetes is overweight. There are actually several reasons metformin is an attractive option for many type 1s. One, metformin has been found to help reduce glucose production in the liver, which is a problem in type 1 diabetes. Two, people often form resistance to the insulin they take, and metformin can help improve insulin sensitivity.

And, metformin may support weight loss and protection against heart disease. A study published in the Lancet following type 1 participants for three years found that compared to placebo, participants taking metformin lost weight. Particularly because insulin often causes weight gain, healthcare providers prescribe metformin “off-label” (not for intended use approved by regulatory agencies) to their type 1 patients. While the study didn’t find that metformin definitively protects against heart disease, based on observed trends in the data, the authors concluded that it may have a role in heart disease risk management.

The Bottom Line?

Metformin

Image source: diaTribe

If you are a person with type 2 diabetes, there are plenty of benefits to taking metformin for its original, intended purpose.

Its side effects are minimal for most people. It’s affordable and covered by Medicare and most insurance plans. Speaking for myself: metformin doesn’t have to cure aging or cancer to be immensely valuable. It helps me process insulin and go on with my life. For me, that’s enough.

About Marcia Kadanoff

Marcia Kadanoff is an advisor to The diaTribe Foundation. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in June 2017 at the age of 50-something, and both her parents and grandparents died of diabetes-related complications. With the help of diaTribe and Adam Brown’s book, Bright Spot & Landmines, Marcia discovered that type 2 diabetes can be put into remission with lifestyle changes. Over the next 7 months, Marcia worked to reverse her diabetes through a LCHF (low-carb, healthy fat) way of eating and regular exercise. Along the way, she lost 45 lbs (!) and found that she no longer suffered from sleep apnea and fibromyalgia. Marcia has maintained her weight loss for a year and had a 4.9% A1C at her last checkup. She wants other people with type 2 to know that they too can put their diabetes into remission.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Most Important Vitamins People with Diabetes Need

People with diabetes have special dietary requirements, but unfortunately, lots of important vitamins and minerals are lacking in the standard American diet. That’s where vitamins can play a crucial role in supplementing one’s health. This article will outline the most important vitamins that people with diabetes need to live their healthiest life.

Vitamin B12

People with diabetes with nerve damage in their hands and feet may see their symptoms worsen if they have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 helps improve the health of red blood cells and boosts brain function.

Studies show that long-term use of the diabetes drug Metformin can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, and strong sources of the vitamin can be found in fish, dairy milk, meat products, and eggs. There are also vegan and vegetarian forms of Vitamin B12 that can be taken orally in pill form.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiencies are common in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and a recent study out of Denmark has shown that people with diabetes who have a Vitamin D deficiency are at an increased risk of diabetes complications and premature death. Solving for this vitamin is cheap and easy: sitting in the sun for 15-20 minutes per day without sunscreen will restore most deficiencies, or Vitamin D can be found in fish, dairy products, or egg yolks.

Vitamin C

Increasing one’s intake of Vitamin C helps control the levels of sorbitol in the blood, which can be harmful at high levels and may contribute to retinopathy and kidney damage, which are common complications of diabetes. Vitamin C can also increase insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin resistance, and help people improve their HbA1c levels.

Vitamin C is found in many fruits (and juices) such as lemons, oranges, tomatoes, guava, watermelon, and strawberries, and is also readily available in supplement form. It is also abundant in vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and peppers.

Chromium

Studies show that chromium, found in brewer’s yeast, improves insulin sensitivity and tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes. Chromium helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and eyes. It is effective at supporting the nervous system and enhancing immune system function. Chromium can be found only in trace amounts in foods like meat, spices, and grains, so people with diabetes should take chromium supplements.

Curcumin

A 2013 meta-analysis shows that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) lowers blood glucose levels, increases insulin sensitivity, and stabilizes blood sugar levels, helping to decrease the likelihood of complications in people with diabetes. Researchers also found that curcumin may play a role in diabetes prevention.

Turmeric and curcumin also help improve mood, which is important for people with diabetes as depression and anxiety are found at much higher rates in this population, aid in digestion, and even improve immune system health.

This extract can be found in over-the-counter supplements and can be added to foods in its natural form (Turmeric), found in the spice aisle of any grocery store. Make sure to consume turmeric with black pepper, as the spice enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%, maximizing its benefits.

Always work with your doctor and/or registered dietitian to determine which vitamins you should incorporate into your daily routine. Your doctor will most likely order a blood test or urine sample to determine what’s needed, but supplementing your diet with more vitamins and minerals can be helpful to achieve better blood sugars and lower HbA1c levels in the short term, and may even prevent long-term diabetes complications and premature death.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

New Study Shows Greater Risk for Severe COVID-19 Among People with Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Eliza Skoler

New results from the CORONADO study reveal that one in five people with COVID-19 and diabetes die within 28 days of hospital admission. The main predictors of severe illness are older age and diabetes complications. 

In May, the CORONADO study revealed that one in ten people with COVID-19 and diabetes died within seven days of hospital admission. Read our early article on the study here.  New findings from the same study show that one in five people with COVID-19 and diabetes died within 28 days of hospital admission.

In the spring of 2020, the study followed 2,796 people with diabetes in France for 28 days after being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19. The analysis looked at rates of death and rates of discharge from the hospital during the 28-day period. The results revealed that after 28 days, 50% of individuals had been discharged and 21% of individuals had died (29% were still hospitalized). The analysis also looked at other factors in the study population:

  • Average age was 70 years old
  • About 40% had long-term microvascular (such as eye or kidney) or macrovascular (such as heart or leg) complications; 11% had heart failure
  • 78% had high blood pressure
  • Almost two thirds were men
  • 88% had type 2 diabetes, and 12% had type 1 diabetes

Older age, diabetes complications (especially heart disease and high blood pressure), difficulty breathing, use of anticoagulant (blood thinning) medication, and biological markers of inflammation were associated with a lower chance of hospital discharge. Similarly, older age, longer duration of diabetes, and a history of microvascular complications were associated with severe illness and poor outcomes from COVID-19 infection. On the other hand, younger age and metformin use were associated with leaving the hospital by the end of 28 days. As discussed in a previous article, while metformin use was associated with a more favorable health outcome, it was not shown to cause better health. Overall, the factors associated with death were the mirror-opposite of those associated with hospital discharge.

Long-term blood sugar management (measured by A1C) was not found to affect COVID-19 outcomes, though high plasma glucose levels at the time of hospitalization were strongly associated with death. Because glucose levels may be tied to COVID-19 outcomes, careful diabetes management remains important for preventing severe illness.

People with diabetes do not have a higher risk of getting COVID; rather, they are more likely to experience severe illness and worse outcomes if infected with COVID-19. It remains important for people with diabetes, as well as their contacts and loved ones, to do everything possible to stay healthy and safe: get vaccinated as soon as you can, continue to social distance, and wear one (or two!) masks in public. To learn more, read “What You Should Know About COVID-19 Vaccines and Diabetes” and “COVID Variants, Double Masks, Diabetes, Oh My!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Metformin May Reduce Your Risk of Death from COVID-19 Infection

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Eliza Skoler

The use of metformin – the most common initial medication for people with type 2 diabetes – was associated with a lower rate of mortality from COVID-19 among people with diabetes in a study in Alabama, confirming five previous studies.

Do you take metformin? It’s the first-line therapy used to lower glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that metformin use was associated with a lower rate of COVID-related death among people with type 2 diabetes. Since people with diabetes are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death, the relationship between metformin and COVID outcomes in this report may be of interest to many people around the world who take the medication.

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The study looked at the electronic health data from 25,326 people tested for COVID at Birmingham Hospital in Alabama, including healthcare workers, between February and June of 2020. Of those tested, 604 people were positive for COVID-19 – and 239 of those who were positive had diabetes. These results showed that the odds of testing positive for COVID were significantly higher for people, particularly Black people, with certain pre-existing conditions, including diabetes. This does not mean people with diabetes are more likely to get COVID-19, only that people with diabetes were more likely to test positive at this hospital.

Importantly, the study found an association between metformin use and risk of death – the study reported that people who were on metformin before being diagnosed with COVID-19 had a significantly lower chance of dying:

  • People taking metformin had an 11% mortality (or death) rate, compared to 24% for those with type 2 diabetes not on metformin when admitted to the hospital.
  • This benefit of metformin remained even when people with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease or chronic heart failure were excluded from the calculations. This is important because people with kidney or heart disease are often advised against taking metformin. By removing this population, it helps to support the notion that metformin may be involved in this difference.
  • Body weight and A1C were not associated with mortality among people with diabetes taking metformin. This suggests that the association of metformin use with reduced COVID-related deaths was not due to the effects of the medication on weight or glucose management.

The data suggest that being a person with diabetes who takes metformin may provide some level of protection against severe COVID-19 infection among people with diabetes. Other studies have shown similar results, though it is not known whether metformin may itself reduce COVID-related deaths among people with type 2 diabetes. The authors discussed some previously reported effects of metformin beyond lowering glucose levels, such as reducing high levels of inflammation (the body’s natural way of fighting infection), which has been described as a risk factor in severe COVID infection. Severe infection with COVID-19, resulting in hospital admission, can lead to damage to the kidneys and decreased oxygen supply to the body’s tissues – and in these circumstances, serious side effects of metformin can occur.

“Given that COVID leads to higher mortality rates and more complicated hospital courses in people with diabetes, it is important to consider whether specific diabetes medications can provide some relative degree of protection against poor COVID outcomes,” said Dr. Tim Garvey, an endocrinologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “This study adds to growing evidence that people with type 2 diabetes treated with metformin have better outcomes than those not receiving metformin.”

Dr. Garvey also cautioned: “Of course, these case-control studies show associations and do not rise to the level of evidence that might be found by a randomized clinical trial. For example, people with diabetes not treated with the first-line drug, metformin, may have a larger number of diabetes complications or longer duration of disease compared with people not on metformin – which could explain the more severe outcomes. In any event, we advocate for early administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other protective measures for people with diabetes.”

Professor Philip Home, a professor of diabetes medicine at Newcastle University in the UK, agreed, saying, “Multiple studies have now addressed the issue of whether metformin and insulin use are associated with better or worse outcomes in people with diabetes who contract COVID-19. In line with previous literature on other diseases, it was expected that people on metformin would do better, and people on insulin worse, than people with diabetes not using these medications. This is confirmed.”

Home continued: “It is believed to happen because people using metformin are younger and have better kidney function than those not taking the medication, while those on insulin tend to have other medical conditions. The good news is that if you have type 2 diabetes and are taking metformin, you are likely to be fitter than if you have type 2 diabetes and do not take the medication – but there is no evidence that metformin itself will make a difference to your outcome if you do get COVID-19. So, get vaccinated as soon as possible!”

To learn more about metformin, read “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Metformin, But Were Afraid to Ask.”

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin: What to Expect

Whether you’ve been newly diagnosed or have been living with type 2 diabetes for a long time, you may know that it is often a progressive disease. The longer someone lives with type 2, the more likely they are to need insulin therapy to manage their blood sugars. Often, but not always, people with type 2 diabetes start the management of their condition with exercise and diet alone, and then may progress to oral medications like Metformin, before finally (over the course of months or even years) requiring insulin to manage their blood sugar levels.

If this happens, you and your doctor will need to come up with a new treatment plan. But what can you expect? This article will describe what will and what won’t happen, and how to prepare when adding insulin therapy to your diabetes management.

There Is No Need to Panic

It’s important to remember that you haven’t done anything wrong if you get to a point where you need insulin therapy. Physicians used to prescribe insulin to people with type 2 diabetes as a last resort, but in recent years are prescribing it much sooner, due to the benefits of more stringent blood sugar management to prevent complications.

Since type 2 diabetes is often a progressive disease, many with the condition will require insulin at some point. You didn’t fail at diabetes management, and insulin is no punishment. Adding insulin therapy to your management toolkit is just another way to better meet HbA1c goals, enjoy better blood sugars, improve your quality of life, and even extend your life. Embrace it!

Insulin Does Not Inherently Make You Gain Weight

There is a common myth that insulin makes you gain weight. And this line of thinking is simply false. Here’s the connection between insulin and weight gain: When you take insulin, glucose from food is better able to enter your cells, making your blood sugar level drop. But if you take in more calories (eat more) than you need, your cells will also get more glucose than they need, and anything extra is stored as fat.

But this is obvious: the same process happens to people who do not have diabetes. People also believe that insulin causes weight gain because at diagnosis, people might be underweight (as a symptom of the disease), and finally getting the insulin they need into their bodies makes them gain the much-needed weight back. There are many side effects of insulin, but if you eat right, exercise, and take it as prescribed, extra weight gain is not one of them.

You Will Experience More Low Blood Sugars

One well-known and common side effect of insulin, however, is hypoglycemia. If you’ve traditionally managed your diabetes with exercise and diet alone, you may have rarely, if ever, experienced low blood sugar. Even oral diabetes medications, such as Metformin, rarely cause low blood sugars when taken on their own, but insulin is a whole different story.

You will need to work with your doctor to fine-tune your management, so you are able to take enough insulin to manage high blood sugars, while not taking too much where you will drop too low. It is a learning process, and it will take time.

Be better prepared by always carrying a snack on you, and making sure to check your blood sugar more often to prevent lows. Symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

Symptoms of severe low blood sugar include:

  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Severe low blood sugar always requires immediate emergency medical attention and 911 should be contacted right away. Ask you doctor about a prescription for Glucagon,  an emergency injection that can be used to bring blood glucose levels up in case of an emergency.

Your Medical Bills Will Go Up

Diabetes is a costly disease, as of 2017, was the most expensive chronic disease in the United States, costing over $327 billion dollars per year. While diet, exercise, and even oral diabetes medications are cheaper ways to manage type 2 diabetes, insulin is one of the most expensive chronic disease medications on the market in the United States, averaging around $285 per vial.

Be prepared for higher costs at the pharmacy counter, especially if your physician prescribes you fast-acting, analog insulins like Humalog, Novolog, or Fiasp. Cheaper, human-insulins are available over the counter at places like Walmart, although they are much slower-acting, are much older, and their efficacy may not be as good as modern insulins.

Make sure to sign up for health insurance, and make sure your insurance plan will cover prescription insulin at a decent out-of-pocket cost. See if you are eligible for Medicaid or Medicare for more affordable coverage.

If available, make sure to take advantage of your employer’s Health Savings Account (HSA) and work with your doctor to make sure you have been prescribed insulin that you can comfortably afford for the long-haul. More resources for affording insulin can be found here.

You Will Need Additional Support

Adding insulin therapy to your diabetes management is a big decision. You will need extra emotional, mental, and even physical support during this time. Insulin therapy is expensive, and the toll of managing low blood sugars for the first time can be tough. Insulin injections can sometimes hurt, finding new injection sites can be hard without a second set of eyes, counting carbohydrates more closely is time-consuming, and fighting off stigma and shame is real and can be hard on everyone. It is a big adjustment.

Getting support from family and friends, joining a diabetes support group, or simply becoming more engaged in the diabetes community can really help during this time. Make sure to enlist friends and family to help you, and be open and honest with them about your worries and struggles. Adding insulin therapy to your management is meant to help, not hurt, but it’s easier when you’re not doing it alone.

Insulin Can Improve the Quality of Your Life

When taking insulin, it is crucial that you work with your doctor and follow your treatment plan to better meet your health goals. The transition from managing with diet and exercise alone or solely taking oral medications to insulin therapy can be challenging, but with a growth mindset and preparation for what lies ahead, you can thrive on insulin therapy and vastly improve the quality of your life.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

The Latest Heart Health and Diabetes Guidelines from the American College of Cardiology

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Joseph Bell

New SGLT-2 inhibitor and GLP-1 agonist diabetes medication recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) updated its guidance in mid-August for heart health in people with type 2 diabetes. These recommendations are supported by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and ACC similarly supported ADA’s 2020 Standards of Care for heart disease.

What’s New?

Compared to the 2018 ACC guidelines, the 2020 update gives more attention to preventing diabetes complications, rather than treating them once they have already developed. If a person with type 2 diabetes has heart disease, kidney disease, or heart failure – or is at high risk of heart disease – the ACC recommends discussing SGLT-2 inhibitor or GLP-1 agonist medications with their healthcare professional. Unlike the 2019 European Society of Cardiology guidelines, however, the ACC does not make a specific recommendation about SGLT-2 inhibitors or GLP-1 agonists as first-line drug therapies.

Additionally, in 2018, the ACC recommended Victoza as the preferred GLP-1 agonist and Jardiance as the preferred SGLT-2 inhibitor. However, with abundant clinical research since then, the ACC now recommends additional therapies, all equally:

  • For GLP-1 receptor agonists: TrulicityOzempic (injectable once-weekly GLP-1), and Victoza (once-daily GLP-1). Of these, only Trulicity is recommended for people with multiple risk factors for heart disease. The ACC also suggested that Rybelsus (oral GLP-1) may be included in these recommendations after more research is completed.
  • For SGLT-2 inhibitors: FarxigaInvokana, and Jardiance. The ACC also mentioned the potential heart and kidney benefits of Steglatro, given results from the VERTIS CV study.

Importantly, the ACC noted that starting either an SGLT-2 inhibitor or GLP-1 agonist medication should not be dependent on a person’s A1C levels; rather, it should be based on whether they would benefit from the drugs’ heart and kidney benefits. Many people with diabetes on an SGLT-2 or GLP-1 medication also see weight loss, reduced hypoglycemia, and lower A1C – even though heart health and kidney health are the reason that the therapies are prescribed. The ACC also recommended either drug class on top of existing metformin therapy. We look forward to a future stance on SGLT-2/GLP-1 combination therapy, although no guidance has been provided so far.

The American Heart Association (AHA) just made its own statement on SGTL-2 and GLP-1 inhibitors here – it’s technical language but check out the “Conclusion and Next Steps” section at the end.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Research Trends: A Focus on Nutrition and the Diabetes-Cancer Connection

Dr. Maria Muccioli, Ph.D., holds degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology, with over a decade of research experience. She is a biology professor at Stratford University and a science writer at Diabetes Daily and has been living well with type 1 diabetes since 2008.

In this recurring article series, Dr. Maria presents some snapshots of recent diabetes research, especially interesting studies and reviews that may fly under the mainstream media radar.

***

In Support of the Ketogenic Diet

A comprehensive literature review by expert obesity and nutrition researchers from Spain was recently published in Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders. The narrative suggests that overall, research on very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets points to favorable health outcomes for many patients with type 2 diabetes. Various health parameters, including weight loss and glycemic management, can be effectively improved when following a very low-carb approach. These outcomes are now supported by a sizable and growing body of peer-reviewed literature. Importantly, adverse health effects appear to be “of mild intensity and transient,” the experts summarized. Dr. Felipe Casanueva and his colleagues even went as far as to call this dietary approach a “potential game-changer in the management of type 2 diabetes.”

Diabetes and Cancer Risk

The complex interplay between diabetes and cancer continues to be investigated in the research world. At this year’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO reported on a link between type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. The scientists evaluated data from almost 6,000 patients with colorectal cancer and found that the cancer patients were significantly more likely to have type 2 diabetes as compared to the healthy control group. The association remained after adjusting for the potential confounding variables, with an increased odds ratio of 1.4 (7.2% of CRC patients also had type 2 diabetes as compared to only 4.3% of the controls).

Clinical Trial: Metformin in Cancer Treatment

A clinical trial at the University of Milan is investigating the utility of Metfomin in preventing high blood sugar in cancer patients treated with glucocorticoids. While high-dose steroids can be an effective treatment for many cancers, they often cause the undesirable side effect of increasing blood glucose levels. The trial will include over one hundred patients undergoing treatment for various types of cancer, including skin, lung, and breast cancers. The researchers hope that by mitigating the hyperglycemic effects of high-dose steroids used in treatment will improve patient outcomes.

Prenatal and Childhood Nutrition Affects Metabolic Disease Later in Life

A large literature review conducted by endocrinology experts in China examined how early nutritional patterns (before birth, i.e., mother’s diet and eating patterns during childhood) may affect metabolic disease, like type 2 diabetes, later in life. The review article was recently published in The Chinese Medical Journal. The key takeaways were as follows: 1) Both maternal “overnutrition and undernutrition” during pregnancy resulted in higher risk for metabolic disorders in their children; 2) These predispositions may be mitigated through specific nutritional patterns in early childhood. This is not surprising, as tissue plasticity is highest during early development, and so many predispositions may be affected by environmental factors. Some studies have pointed to the importance of “dietary bioactive compounds,” including resveratrol, and genistein, among others, in this process.

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Please share your thoughts with us and stay tuned for more recent research updates!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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