21 November 2018
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 21, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A test that measures wavelengths of light coming off skin cells might detect type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even your risk of dying, new research shows. It’s possible that — someday — a quick “autofluorescence” light test to the skin might be used by consumers in “supermarkets, pharmacies or drugstores as a first estimate of [health] risk,” according to a Dutch research team. The new device is called an AGE Reader, with AGE standing for chemicals found on skin cells called “advanced glycation end-products.” AGEs are natural byproducts of illness that can — using the AGE Reader — glow or “fluoresce” on the skin, explained the researchers led by Bruce Wolffenbuttel of the University of Groningen. Their new study tested the device on the skin of nearly 73,000 people whose health was then tracked up to 10 years, with an average follow-up of four years. During the follow-up period, more than 1,000 participants went on to develop type 2 diabetes, close to 1,300 developed heart disease and 928 died. A 1-unit rise in skin autofluorescence using the AGE Reader “was associated with a threefold increase in risk of type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and a five-times increased risk of death,” the researchers reported Nov. 21 in the journal Diabetologia. What’s more, the device’s power at predicting death or disease remained steady even when telltale risk factors — such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or poor blood sugar control — were absent, the study found. Even after adjusting for those risk factors, a 1-unit rise in the AGE Reader autofluorescence score was tied to a 26 percent rise in risk for type 2 diabetes; a 33 percent rise in heart disease risk; and a near-doubling of the odds for death during the follow-up period. The bottom line is that the new findings support skin autofluorescence “as a first screening method to predict type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality,” the researchers said in a journal news release. One U.S. diabetes specialist was intrigued by the research. Dr. Gerald Bernstein directs the Friedman Diabetes Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He wasn’t involved in the new study, but is familiar with “AGE” chemicals as natural indicators of health. “What’s a good example of an AGE that everyone can recognize? On Thanksgiving we put a turkey in the oven with the goal of having a beautiful bird with beautiful browned skin. That browning occurs because of the AGEs in the turkey skin,” Bernstein noted. He explained that in live humans, these proteins “stick to each other and form a web, and this web is an AGE. The formation of AGEs contribute to the complications of diabetes.” Because AGEs can gradually increase over time, doctors might someday “easily screen whole populations by the fluorescent technique to identify who has AGEs and is therefore at risk,” Bernstein said. A heart specialist agreed. Dr. Guy Mintz called the study “impressive,” and said devices like the AGE Reader “could be a game-changer in cardiovascular and diabetic risk assessment.” He directs cardiovascular health at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. Mintz said studies where the AGE Reader was used on a patient’s skin before and after medical treatments would be interesting “to see if the pattern of skin autofluorescence changes with medical and lifestyle interventions.” However, Mintz did have one reservation: “I do not agree with the author’s [notion] that this technology can be used in nonclinical settings, such as pharmacies, to assess patients’ risk.” He said non-physicians could easily misinterpret test results and that might harm, not help, patients. More information The American Diabetes Association offers more on diabetes.
24 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) — You’d expect big blood sugar fluctuations in people with diabetes. But for those without the disorder, blood sugar levels should remain fairly stable, right? Maybe not, says a new study. Researchers found some people who don’t have diabetes still have wild swings in their blood sugar levels after they eat. Among nearly 60 participants, the study authors identified three “glucotypes” based on how much blood sugar spiked after eating — low, moderate and severe. The study also found that certain foods were more likely to prompt an extreme change in blood sugar (glucose) than others. “Even if you don’t have diabetes, you may not have normal glucose. There are a lot of people with glucose dysfunction out there who don’t know it,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Snyder. He’s director of genomics and personalized medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California. Snyder said this finding is potentially concerning because spikes in blood sugar levels have been associated with risk of heart attack and stroke. And it’s possible — though it hasn’t been proven in this study — that people who have big rises in their blood sugar after eating may have a higher risk of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a major health problem, affecting more than 30 million U.S. adults and 422 million worldwide, the authors noted. But not every medical expert is convinced that these changes in blood sugar in healthy people are something to be concerned about. Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, pointed out that the study population was small. That makes it difficult to draw conclusions about blood sugar pattern “types,” he said. Zonszein was not involved with the research. The study volunteers “were separated into low, moderate and severe spikes. But there may be many other patterns,” he said. “Absorption, storage and utilization of [sugars] is highly regulated and difficult to characterize by only three different patterns.” Zonszein added that blood sugar metabolism is complex and affected by many different variables. To determine the three glucotypes, the Stanford researchers recruited 57 people without diabetes to wear a device called a continuous glucose monitor for a few weeks. These devices measure approximate blood sugar levels every five minutes using a sensor that’s inserted underneath the skin, Zonszein said. People with diabetes use these devices to monitor trends in their blood sugar and to see if treatment changes are needed. The monitors provide more information about blood sugar patterns than standard tests that generally only capture a short period of time. In addition to discovering the three different glucose spiking patterns, the researchers conducted a sub-study with 30 volunteers who wore a continuous glucose monitor while they ate standardized meals. One meal was cornflakes with milk, another was a protein bar and the third was a peanut butter sandwich. “Certain foods tend to spike nearly everybody,” Snyder said, adding that the cereal was one such food. About 4 out of 5 people saw their blood sugar jump after consuming cereal and milk, the researchers said. Some of the spikes observed in the study reached prediabetic and diabetic levels, the study authors noted. Zonszein said that while continuous glucose monitors are great tools for people with diabetes, they don’t necessarily capture someone’s “glucose metabolism.” And he doesn’t see the devices being used to replace current screening tests for diabetes until much more research is done comparing this technology to current tests. The study was published July 24 in the journal PLOS Biology. More information The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers more on preventing diabetes.
05 January 2018
FRIDAY, Jan. 5, 2018 (HealthDay News) — This past year was a busy, productive one for diabetes research and care. “2017 was a year of progress in our understanding of diabetes and its complications, the tools available to help people manage their diabetes, and attention to the economic and accessibility challenges faced by people with diabetes,” said Dr. William Cefalu, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Strides were made in: Artificial pancreas technology Probably the biggest and most anticipated news of 2017 was the rollout of the so-called artificial pancreas. Created by Medtronic, the device combines an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor and a computer algorithm that measures blood sugar levels and then delivers insulin automatically when those levels rise. Insulin delivery is also temporarily suspended if blood sugar levels drop too low. The device isn’t completely automated yet. People with diabetes still need to know how to count the carbohydrates in their food and enter that information into their insulin pump. And the device still requires people with diabetes to check their blood sugar several times a day and enter that information into the machine — this is known as “calibrating.” The hope is that future versions of the device won’t require these steps. Aaron Kowalski, chief mission officer for JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), said, “We’ve waited a long time to see these systems come to market, and while it’s not yet perfect, it has opened the door, and there’s definitely a benefit.” He added that a number of other insulin pump manufacturers and independent companies are working on their own artificial pancreas systems. “Competition is really important and helps drive innovation. The next few years will hold promise,” Kowalski added. Improving heart health Heart disease is a significant concern for people with diabetes. New research suggested that long-term use of metformin could reduce the risk of heart disease in people with type 1 diabetes. Other medications have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes. These include Jardiance, Invokana and Victoza. “Cardiovascular disease is the most deadly and expensive complication of diabetes, and a number of recent studies have shown that certain medications also have a strong protective effect against cardiovascular disease in people at high risk for it,” Cefalu said. Competition in the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) market The artificial pancreas wasn’t the only innovation in diabetes technology in 2017. Another continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Made by Abbott and called the Libre, this device has been in use in Europe for several years. The major difference in the Libre is that you have to request the blood sugar information. Other devices on the market — from Dexcom and Medtronic — send blood sugar information collected by a tiny sensor wire inserted under the skin to a receiver every five minutes or so. The Libre also uses a tiny sensor wire inserted under the skin, but the person with diabetes has to request the information be sent to the receiver. In addition, the Libre also doesn’t require any fingerstick calibration as other devices on the market do. “Some people find the constant information provided by continuous glucose monitors to be stressful. With the Libre, you ask when you want the information. It’s also a little bit flatter than other CGMs, and it comes in at a much lower price point,” Kowalski explained. Improving blood sugar levels in pregnant women with type 1 diabetes One of the most promising uses of CGM technology became evident with the publication of the results of an international study of women with type 1 diabetes who wore the devices during pregnancy. Women with type 1 diabetes have to manage their blood sugar levels very tightly during pregnancy, because high blood sugar levels are associated with birth defects and other pregnancy complications. But this also puts them at risk of developing dangerously low blood sugar levels. Women using CGM spent more time in “target” range than women who didn’t. That means their blood sugar was neither too high nor too low for longer periods of time. “This study helped show that mothers and babies do better when the mother [with type 1 diabetes] has a CGM,” Kowalski said. The study was published in The Lancet. Insulin speed Novo Nordisk received FDA approval for a new insulin called Fiasp. This insulin starts working in about 2.5 minutes. Currently, Novolog, another product from Novo Nordisk, takes approximately five to 10 minutes to start working. That difference may not seem like much, but unless people with diabetes who are dependent on insulin inject at least five to 10 minutes before they eat, their blood sugar levels may spike too high after eating. It’s not always possible or even safe to pre-inject insulin. For example, in a restaurant, you have no way of knowing when your food might arrive, and if you pre-inject and your food is late, you can have a dangerously low blood sugar level. The shorter time it takes Fiasp to work could help prevent spikes in blood sugar after eating, which ultimately leads to better diabetes control. Awareness of costs and increased coverage The cost of insulin has come under sharp scrutiny recently because the cost of some insulin has tripled in about a decade. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) first brought the issue up during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ADA started a campaign called “Make Insulin Affordable” and is working with members of Congress to bring more attention to the issue. This was also the first year that people on Medicare with diabetes could get coverage for all CGMs. Initially, Medicare only offered coverage for the Dexcom CGM, but on Jan. 4 the agency announced that it would also cover the Libre CGM. More information Learn more about diabetes from the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.