“The problem is we don’t treat diabetes as a dietary problem; we treat it with a lot of drugs, and that never addresses the root problem of the diabetes,” says principal investigator Jason Fung, MD, a kidney specialist at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and author of The Complete Guide to Fasting,and The Obesity Code, a 2016 book thought to help popularize intermittent fasting.
In obese young people, decreased β-cell function has recently been shown to predict deterioration of glucose tolerance (4,78). Additionally, the rate of decline in glucose tolerance in first-degree relatives of type 2 diabetic individuals is strongly related to the loss of β-cell function, whereas insulin sensitivity changes little (79). This observation mirrors those in populations with a high incidence of type 2 diabetes in which transition from hyperinsulinemic normal glucose tolerance to overt diabetes involves a large, rapid rise in glucose levels as a result of a relatively small further loss of acute β-cell competence (3). The Whitehall II study showed in a large population followed prospectively that people with diabetes exhibit a sudden rise in fasting glucose as β-cell function deteriorates (Fig. 5) (80). Hence, the ability of the pancreas to mount a normal, brisk insulin response to an increasing plasma glucose level is lost in the 2 years before the detection of diabetes, although fasting plasma glucose levels may have been at the upper limit of normal for several years. This was very different from the widely assumed linear rise in fasting plasma glucose level and gradual β-cell decompensation but is consistent with the time course of markers of increased liver fat before the onset of type 2 diabetes observed in other studies (81). Data from the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study demonstrated that plasma triacylglycerol and ALT levels were modestly elevated 2 years before the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and that there was a steady rise in the level of this liver enzyme in the run-up to the time of diagnosis (75).
Diabetes is the major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. The number of people affected by all types of diabetic disorders is now over four times higher than just 40 years ago. This has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider diabetes an epidemic, predicting it will soon be the seventh biggest cause of death worldwide.
Other medications such as metformin or the DPP4 drug class are weight neutral. While this won’t make things worse, they won’t make things better either. Since weight loss is the key to reversing type 2 diabetes, medications won’t make things better. Medications make blood sugars (the symptom) better, but not the diabetes (the actual disease). We’ve been pretending that the symptom is the disease.We can pretend the disease is better, but that doesn’t make it true. That’s the reason most doctors think type 2 diabetes a chronic and progressive disease. We’ve been using the wrong treatment. We’ve been prescribing drugs for a dietary disease. No wonder it doesn’t work.
Aside from the financial costs of diabetes, the more frightening findings are the complications and co-existing conditions. In 2014, 7.2 million hospital discharges were reported with diabetes as a listed diagnosis. Patients with diabetes were treated for major cardiovascular diseases, ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower-extremity amputation and diabetic ketoacidosis.
There are many promising studies suggesting chromium supplementation may be effective, but they are far from conclusive. For example, a small study published in the journal Diabetes Care compared the diabetes medication sulfonylurea taken with 1,000 mcg of chromium to sulfonylurea taken with a placebo. After 6 months, people who did not take chromium had a significant increase in body weight, body fat, and abdominal fat, whereas people taking the chromium had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity.
Can somebody at Virta help us find the actual presentation at the 2017 world polyphenol conference on lectins and polyphenols and artery flexibility? I can only find the agenda where the title of the presentation and time is made. He described what he was going to say in an interview a few weeks earlier, more rigidity of arteries with re-introduction of lectins, but I cannot find the actual presentation. He had a publication in 2013 on the reversal of endothelial dysfunction, is why I think we should take this other publication seriously:
“Whether it be the patient saying for the fifth time ‘I will start watching my diet and start exercising,’ or a physician saying ‘the A1c is close to goal and I don’t really want to add yet another medication and copay, we will wait and see what happens in another 3 months,’ the end result is lack of intensification and A1c goal attainment,” Pantalone said.
A rapid-acting inhaled insulin (Afrezza) is also FDA-approved for use before meals. It must be used in combination with long-acting insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes and should not be used by those who smoke or have chronic lung disease. It comes as a single dose cartridge.Premixed insulin is also available for people who need to use more than one type of insulin.
There have been some small, limited studies as well as anecdotal reports that certain alternative or “natural” treatments can help control blood glucose levels in people with diabetes or otherwise prevent the condition or prevent its complications. These can include herbs or dietary supplements. Examples include garlic, cinnamon, alpha-lipoic acid, aloe vera, chromium, ginseng, and magnesium.
In addition to weight loss through traditional methods, some patients with diabetes can have bariatric surgery and then find that their diabetes goes away. Yet not everyone qualifies with this. The person usually needs to have a body mass index of 40 or higher and uncontrolled diabetes, Louard says. “If you regain the weight, the diabetes comes back,” Louard cautions.
Efforts to cure or stop type 1 diabetes are still in the early stages, and these approaches will also not be suitable for people that have already lost their insulin-producing cells. A solution could be the creation of an “artificial pancreas” — a fully automated system that can measure glucose levels and inject the right amount of insulin into the bloodstream, just like a healthy pancreas would.
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Given the consequences of diabetes, self-management is something I want to encourage, not discourage. Without a commitment from the patient to take an active role in managing their diabetes, any treatment plan is doomed to fail. So is self-treatment with supplements a wise idea? There’s an array available, and patients regularly ask about the latest treatment “Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about”. That treatment used to be chromium. Ginseng was popular for a time, too. Fenugreek and bitter melon are used as well. The treatment that seems most popular now is cinnamon. Like any other herbal remedy, most sources will tell you that it’s been used for “thousands of years” as a medicinal herb. As a treatment for diabetes, I have my doubts. While reports of diabetes go back to 1552 BCE, the ability to effectively measure any diabetes treatment only goes back a few decades. Interest in cinnamon as a treatment seems to have started with in vitro tests but gained some plausibility in 2003, when a study from Alam Khan suggested several grams of cassia cinnamon per day could lower fasting blood glucose. Khan randomized Type 2 diabetes to 1g, 3g, or 6g of cinnamon for 40 days. All three groups improved their fasting blood glucose, and blood lipid levels, but there was no effect on A1C.
The first thing to understand when it comes to treating diabetes is your blood glucose level, which is just what it sounds like — the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat and also is formed and stored inside the body. It's the main source of energy for the cells of the body, and is carried to them through the blood. Glucose gets into the cells with the help of the hormone insulin.
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.