At the start of the study, all of the patients had been taking two oral diabetes drugs for at least six months. But they still had poorly controlled diabetes based on blood tests showing so-called hemoglobin A1c levels, which reflect average blood sugar levels over about three months. Readings above 6.5 signal diabetes, and everyone in the study had readings of at least 7.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD), which commonly affects the legs, is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that can result from a build-up of plaque or fatty deposits in blood vessels outside the heart or brain. Because diabetics sometimes have reduced feeling in their feet and legs, they often do not feel symptoms of PAD and it goes undiagnosed and untreated. The Diabetes Treatment Center at Desert Springs Hospital take a proactive approach to PAD and provides free Ankle Brachial Index screenings for patients.
Chronic exposure of β-cells to triacylglycerol or fatty acids either in vitro or in vivo decreases β-cell capacity to respond to an acute increase in glucose levels (57,58). This concept is far from new (59,60), but the observations of what happens during reversal of diabetes provide a new perspective. β-Cells avidly import fatty acids through the CD36 transporter (24,61) and respond to increased fatty acid supply by storing the excess as triacylglycerol (62). The cellular process of insulin secretion in response to an increase in glucose supply depends on ATP generation by glucose oxidation. However, in the context of an oversupply of fatty acids, such chronic nutrient surfeit prevents further increases in ATP production. Increased fatty acid availability inhibits both pyruvate cycling, which is normally increased during an acute increase in glucose availability, and pyruvate dehydrogenase activity, the major rate-limiting enzyme of glucose oxidation (63). Fatty acids have been shown to inhibit β-cell proliferation in vitro by induction of the cell cycle inhibitors p16 and p18, and this effect is magnified by increased glucose concentration (64). This antiproliferative effect is specifically prevented by small interfering RNA knockdown of the inhibitors. In the Zucker diabetic fatty rat, a genetic model of spontaneous type 2 diabetes, the onset of hyperglycemia is preceded by a rapid increase in pancreatic fat (58). It is particularly noteworthy that the onset of diabetes in this genetic model is completely preventable by restriction of food intake (65), illustrating the interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors.
When the insulin levels are unable to keep up with the increasing resistance, blood sugars rise and your doctor diagnoses you with type 2 diabetes and starts you on a pill, such as metformin. But metformin does not get rid of the sugar. Instead, it simply takes the sugar from the blood and rams it back into the liver. The liver doesn’t want it either, so it ships it out to all the other organs — the kidneys, the nerves, the eyes, the heart. Much of this extra sugar will also just get turned into fat.
Alternative medicine for diabetes is big business, because the public health burden of diabetes is massive, and growing. In 1985, the worldwide prevalence was 30 million people. In 2000, it was 150 million. By 2030, it could be 250 million. Why are more people being diagnosed with diabetes? Obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and an aging population. At its core, diabetes is a disease of sugar (glucose) management. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, allows cells to use glucose. When the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, it’s called Type 1 diabetes. This is an autoimmune disease that strikes early in life, and was a death sentence until insulin was discovered. When the pancreas can produce insulin, but the amount is insufficient, or when there’s a problem with the uptake of insulin into cells, it’s termed type 2 diabetes. 90% of all diabetes is type 2. Typically a disease of older adults, type 2 diabetes can potentially be treated without drugs of any kind, but success rates are low and medication is eventually advisable. There’s also gestational diabetes, a disease of pregnancy, and prediabetes, where blood sugars are elevated, and diabetes is an expected future diagnosis.
This modality can be contrasted with the emphasis of conventional medicine, which is to cure or mitigate disease, as reported by the American Holistic Health Association. For example, a conventional practitioner will follow an established algorithm for diabetes management that includes a medically established protocol centered on monitoring blood sugar and prescribing medications to balance it. An alternative medicine provider takes a personalized, whole-person approach that may include a prescription for changes in diet and exercise habits, stress reduction, and other lifestyle considerations. (The table below offers a comparison of alternative medicine with conventional medicine.)
Drugs of this class decrease the absorption of carbohydrates from the intestine. Before being absorbed into the bloodstream, enzymes in the small intestine must break down carbohydrates into smaller sugar particles, such as glucose. One of the enzymes involved in breaking down carbohydrates is called alpha-glucosidase. By inhibiting this enzyme, carbohydrates are not broken down as efficiently, and glucose absorption is delayed.