Poor glycemic control refers to persistently elevated blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels, which may range from 200–500 mg/dl (11–28 mmol/L) and 9–15% or higher over months and years before severe complications occur. Meta-analysis of large studies done on the effects of tight vs. conventional, or more relaxed, glycemic control in type 2 diabetics have failed to demonstrate a difference in all-cause cardiovascular death, non-fatal stroke, or limb amputation, but decreased the risk of nonfatal heart attack by 15%. Additionally, tight glucose control decreased the risk of progression of retinopathy and nephropathy, and decreased the incidence peripheral neuropathy, but increased the risk of hypoglycemia 2.4 times.
Following these five principles can significantly influence blood glucose levels. However, not everyone responds the same. Some people with have immediate low blood glucose levels. Others may experience a slow and steady improvement of glucose control. Some may have temporary high glucose levels. Our experience is that this is transient and most people will improve.
Unfortunately, most people are not given the benefit of this approach. When diagnosed with diabetes, most people are told to avoid sugar (good step, not the solution). If the problem is bad enough, they are told to take medication to give the body insulin. The problem is, as we saw above, diabetes is a problem with the body’s regulation of insulin, caused by a resistance to insulin and an overproduction to remove toxic amounts of glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin is also dangerous if it is left circulating the the blood. Somehow, treating too much circulating glucose and insulin with more insulin doesn’t seem like the right approach…
For type 2 diabetics, diabetic management consists of a combination of diet, exercise, and weight loss, in any achievable combination depending on the patient. Obesity is very common in type 2 diabetes and contributes greatly to insulin resistance. Weight reduction and exercise improve tissue sensitivity to insulin and allow its proper use by target tissues. Patients who have poor diabetic control after lifestyle modifications are typically placed on oral hypoglycemics. Some Type 2 diabetics eventually fail to respond to these and must proceed to insulin therapy. A study conducted in 2008 found that increasingly complex and costly diabetes treatments are being applied to an increasing population with type 2 diabetes. Data from 1994 to 2007 was analyzed and it was found that the mean number of diabetes medications per treated patient increased from 1.14 in 1994 to 1.63 in 2007.
Carbohydrates break down into glucose in the small intestine which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Spices like Cayenne pepper stimulate glucose absorption from the small intestine, according to a Hungarian study published in the March 18, 2006 issue of the “European Journal of Pharmacology”. Add a bit to cayenne pepper to your home-cooked meals to stabilize your blood sugar levels naturally. The entire pepper family – including bell peppers, chilli peppers, and cayenne are known to help fight inflammation. That is why they are prized in several Asian culinary traditions. Use Cayenne wisely to get its anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
However, the alternate term “reversed” often being used, may confuse people and mistake the good control of diabetes (remission) as a complete cure. Unfortunately, there is no current long term cure yet, and if one had gained back the weight they had lost or went back to old lifestyle habits, Type 2 diabetes would come back and sign and symptoms would present.
The accepted view has been that the β-cell dysfunction of established diabetes progresses inexorably (79,82,83), whereas insulin resistance can be modified at least to some extent. However, it is now clear that the β-cell defect, not solely hepatic insulin resistance, may be reversible by weight loss at least early in the course of type 2 diabetes (21,84). The low insulin sensitivity of muscle tissue does not change materially either during the onset of diabetes or during subsequent reversal. Overall, the information on the inhibitory effects of excess fat on β-cell function and apoptosis permits a new understanding of the etiology and time course of type 2 diabetes.
A: Fasting plasma glucose and weight change 2 years after randomization either to gastric banding or to intensive medical therapy for weight loss and glucose control. Data plotted with permission from Dixon et al. (13). B: Early changes in fasting plasma glucose level following pancreatoduodenal bypass surgery. A decrease into the normal range was seen within 7 days. Reproduced with permission from Taylor (98).
The extent of weight loss required to reverse type 2 diabetes is much greater than conventionally advised. A clear distinction must be made between weight loss that improves glucose control but leaves blood glucose levels abnormal and weight loss of sufficient degree to normalize pancreatic function. The Belfast diet study provides an example of moderate weight loss leading to reasonably controlled, yet persistent diabetes. This study showed that a mean weight loss of 11 kg decreased fasting blood glucose levels from 10.4 to 7.0 mmol/L but that this abnormal level presaged the all-too-familiar deterioration of control (87).
If a drug treatment’s efficacy is questionable, the adverse event and safety profile is even more important. As a popular food additive, cinnamon seems safe when consumed at doses of a few grams per day. (1 teaspoon of the powder is about 4.75 grams). While the trials have been small and short in duration, no significant adverse events have been reported. It is Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS), as a seasoning and flavoring. However, reversible liver damage has been reported with therapeutic use, due to coumarin, a chemical also present in Cassia cinnamon. Those with liver impairment or dysfunction may be at greater risk of harm. There are no published long-term studies with cinnamon that inform us whether chronic consumption of high doses is safe.
As the fats decreased inside the liver and the pancreas, some individuals also experienced improved functioning of their pancreatic beta cells, which store and release insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels. The likelihood of regaining normal glucose control depends on the ability of the beta cells to recover, the study authors say.
Studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have demonstrated that face-to-face training programs designed to help individuals with type 1 diabetes better anticipate, detect, and prevent extreme BG can reduce the occurrence of future hypoglycemia-related driving mishaps. An internet-version of this training has also been shown to have significant beneficial results. Additional NIH funded research to develop internet interventions specifically to help improve driving safety in drivers with type 1 diabetes is currently underway.
The ripe fruit of this cactus has been shown in some small studies to lower blood sugar levels. You may be able to find the fruit in your grocery store, but if not, look for it as a juice or powder at health food stores. Researchers speculate that the fruit may possibly lower blood sugar because it contains components that work similarly to insulin. The fruit is also high in fiber. Try these foods for the best diabetic diet.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.