Implementing integrative and functional medical nutrition therapy, I helped the patient understand that she could reverse the trajectory she was on by making lifestyle changes—and that’s what she did. We engaged in shared decision making in our ongoing nutrition consultations. Over the course of one year, her physiology and health status changed for the better. Her A1c dropped from 7.2% to 5.6%, and she no longer required medications. She continues to adhere to her new lifestyle program and is confident she’ll remain free of a diabetes diagnosis.
Chinese medicine teaches us that we do not treat a patient based solely on a Western medical diagnosis, but, rather, based on the symptoms that present, and the health of the body as a whole system. There are several beneficial herbal formulas that have been developed to treat some of the general symptoms, but it is important to remember that not everyone will present symptoms in the same way, and treatment should be individualized to suit the specific needs of the patient.
Data from the Swedish randomized study of gastric banding showed that a loss of 20% body weight was associated with long-term remission in 73% of a bariatric surgery group, with weight change itself being the principal determinant of glucose control (13). Dietary weight loss of 15 kg allowed for reversal of diabetes in a small group of individuals recently receiving a diagnosis (21). In individuals strongly motivated to regain normal health, substantial weight loss is entirely possible by decreasing food consumption (88). This information should be made available to all people with type 2 diabetes, even though with present methods of changing eating habits, it is unlikely that weight loss can be achieved in those not strongly motivated to escape from diabetes. Some genetic predictors, especially the Ala12 allele at PPARG, of successful long-term weight loss have been identified (89), and use of such markers could guide future therapy. It must be noted that involuntary food shortage, such as a result of war, results in a sharp fall in type 2 diabetes prevalence (90,91).
A popular spice used in Indian cooking, and the main ingredient of ‘curry’ that has taken the world by storm, turmeric has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that all come together to help diabetics manage more stable blood sugar levels. It helps boost immunity and prevent infections that diabetics are often vulnerable to. Studies conducted on rats prove that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is effective in reducing plasma glucose level and HbA1C as well as improving the lipid profile. Many diabetics also suffer from arthritis, since the sugar laden blood and inflammatory processes typical to diabetes often damage joints. Turmeric, with its anti-inflammatory abilities, also helps with these joint pains.
Lunch. Salads are always a good option for lunch – load it up with meat or tofu, cheese, avocado, veggies and a full-fat dressing like olive oil or ranch. In a rush? Grab a lettuce-wrapped burger or bread-less sandwich from any fast food outlet. Like to cook? Try steak and brussels sprouts smothered in butter, salmon and asparagus with hollandaise sauce or a Thai curry made with tofu, coconut milk and green beans.
Big pharma are in the early stages of developing their own cell therapy approaches for diabetes. Novo Nordisk, one of the largest providers of diabetes treatments, is bidding for stem cells and an encapsulation device, stating that the first clinical trial could take place in the “next few years.” Sanofi, also a big name in diabetes, is working with the German Evotec in a beta cell replacement therapy for diabetics.
With diabetes, however, either the pancreas doesn’t produce the correct amount of insulin (Type 1) or the body’s cells are unable to process and utilize the insulin (Type 2). In both cases, this causes a buildup of glucose in the blood, which results in inadequate energy supply for the body and can cause dehydration, kidney and nerve damage, blindness, an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and more.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
A couple of studies have found that cinnamon improves blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. In the first study, 60 people with type 2 diabetes were divided into six groups. Three groups took 1, 3 or 6 g of cinnamon a day and the remaining three groups consumed 1, 3 or 6 g of placebo capsules. After 40 days, all three doses of cinnamon significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.
Like trials with any other supplement or herbal product, the primary question we must answer is “What exactly was studied?”. The cinnamon you have in your kitchen may be a single species of plant or a mix of different cultivars. Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamommum verum) is more commonly found in the West. Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) is the version of cinnamon that’s been studied in trials. The chemical hydroxychalcone has been identified as a potential active ingredient, which is believed to modify the sensitivity of cells to insulin, enhancing their uptake. If that’s the true mechanism of action, then it would work in a manner similar to that of the drugs Avandia, Actos, and metformin (Glucophage). Given the active ingredient (or ingredients) have not yet been definitively isolated, the issue of studying cinnamon is problematic. There’s no way to assess the potency of any batch, which complicates any evaluation. And that may be a reason why the research with cinnamon is inconsistent and largely disappointing.
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.