A wide scatter of absolute levels of pancreas triacylglycerol has been reported, with a tendency for higher levels in people with diabetes (57). This large population study showed overlap between diabetic and weight-matched control groups. These findings were also observed in a more recent smaller study that used a more precise method (21). Why would one person have normal β-cell function with a pancreas fat level of, for example, 8%, whereas another has type 2 diabetes with a pancreas fat level of 5%? There must be varying degrees of liposusceptibility of the metabolic organs, and this has been demonstrated in relation to ethnic differences (72). If the fat is simply not available to the body, then the susceptibility of the pancreas will not be tested, whereas if the individual acquires excess fat stores, then β-cell failure may or may not develop depending on degree of liposusceptibility. In any group of people with type 2 diabetes, simple inspection reveals that diabetes develops in some with a body mass index (BMI) in the normal or overweight range, whereas others have a very high BMI. The pathophysiologic changes in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity are not different in obese and normal weight people (73), and the upswing in population rates of type 2 diabetes relates to a right shift in the whole BMI distribution. Hence, the person with a BMI of 24 and type 2 diabetes would in a previous era have had a BMI of 21 and no diabetes. It is clear that individual susceptibility factors determine the onset of the condition, and both genetic and epigenetic factors may contribute. Given that diabetes cannot occur without loss of acute insulin response to food, it can be postulated that this failure of acute insulin secretion could relate to both accumulation of fat and susceptibility to the adverse effect of excess fat in the pancreas.


The twin cycle hypothesis of the etiology of type 2 diabetes. During long-term intake of more calories than are expended each day, any excess carbohydrate must undergo de novo lipogenesis, which particularly promotes fat accumulation in the liver. Because insulin stimulates de novo lipogenesis, individuals with a degree of insulin resistance (determined by family or lifestyle factors) will accumulate liver fat more readily than others because of higher plasma insulin levels. In turn, the increased liver fat will cause relative resistance to insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production. Over many years, a modest increase in fasting plasma glucose level will stimulate increased basal insulin secretion rates to maintain euglycemia. The consequent hyperinsulinemia will further increase the conversion of excess calories to liver fat. A cycle of hyperinsulinemia and blunted suppression of hepatic glucose production becomes established. Fatty liver leads to increased export of VLDL triacylglycerol (85), which will increase fat delivery to all tissues, including the islets. This process is further stimulated by elevated plasma glucose levels (85). Excess fatty acid availability in the pancreatic islet would be expected to impair the acute insulin secretion in response to ingested food, and at a certain level of fatty acid exposure, postprandial hyperglycemia will supervene. The hyperglycemia will further increase insulin secretion rates, with consequent enhancement of hepatic lipogenesis, spinning the liver cycle faster and driving the pancreas cycle. Eventually, the fatty acid and glucose inhibitory effects on the islets reach a trigger level that leads to a relatively sudden onset of clinical diabetes. Figure adapted with permission from Taylor (98).


Low glycemic index foods also may be helpful. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes a rise in your blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index raise your blood sugar quickly. Low glycemic index foods may help you achieve a more stable blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index typically are foods that are higher in fiber.
Evidence linking hepatic insulin sensitivity to intraorgan triglyceride content has been steadily accumulating. In insulin-treated type 2 diabetes, insulin dose correlates with the extent of fatty liver (35), and in turn, this is associated with insulin sensitivity to suppression of hepatic glucose production (36). Decreasing the fat content of liver is associated with improvement in insulin suppression of glucose production and, thereby, with improvement in fasting plasma glucose (20,23).
Western or conventional therapies for diabetes have been geared toward regulating blood glucose with a combination of diet modification, insulin and/or oral pharmacological agents, weight loss when appropriate, and exercise. Although Western medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) share the diabetes treatment goals of reducing symptoms and preventing complications, their approaches to conceptualizing, diagnosing, and treating the disease are very different. This article will outline the key concepts and therapies of TCM that play a role in the evaluation and treatment of diabetic patients.

Researchers are working on vaccines to prevent someone with type 1 diabetes from losing their insulin producing cells. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system turns on its own insulin producing cells and periodically kills them off. A successful vaccine would prevent this from happening. The vaccine has been successful in rodents but vaccines have yet to demonstrate the same success in human trials.
“Three years after receiving two administrations of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine four weeks apart, all members of a group of adults with longstanding type 1 diabetes showed an improvement in HbA1c to near normal levels – improvement that persisted for the following five years. The study from a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team – published in npj Vaccines – also reports that the effects of BCG vaccine on blood sugar control appear to depend on a totally novel metabolic mechanism that increases cellular consumption of glucose.
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People with diabetes are unable to control the level of sugar in their blood, usually due to a breakdown in how their bodies use the hormone insulin. It’s not completely clear how obesity can contribute to diabetes, but it is known that excess weight is associated with chronic inflammation and a dysfunctional metabolism. And these factors in turn make it easier for someone to stop responding to the presence of insulin as easily as they once did. So by using surgery to help very obese people with diabetes lose weight, the logic goes, you can indirectly treat or prevent the condition. But doctors such as David Cummings, a senior investigator at the University of Washington’s Diabetes & Obesity Center of Excellence, are pushing back against this way of thinking.
These findings present a hopeful option not just for improved management of the condition, but a potential cure. One that doesn’t rely on expensive medications or invasive surgery, but instead, on improved diet and lifestyle — which could also be beneficial in managing and preventing a number of other chronic conditions which are affected by weight. As Taylor told The Guardian, “The weight loss goals provided by this programme [sic] are achievable for many people. The big challenge is long-term avoidance of weight re-gain.”
Joseph, you should talk with your doctor or diabetes educator about this. In general, you can take metformin with most herbs, but your case might be different, and you might not need to. You might have to experiment. The same with insulin, although you have to be more careful there — in all cases you should work with your doctor or diabetes educator.
Replacing humans with computers could make patients better control their sugar levels and suffer less complications in the long term. The French company Cellnovo has already shown that just a partially automated system, where blood sugar levels can be monitored wirelessly but patients still select insulin amounts, can reduce the chances of reaching life-threatening low sugar levels up to 39%. The company is now working towards developing a fully automated artificial pancreas in collaboration with Imperial College, the Diabeloop consortium and the Horizon2020 program.
Pramlintide is only appropriate for certain people with diabetes who use insulin and are having problems maintaining their blood sugar levels. Because of the potential for severe hypoglycemia with the use of pramlintide is with insulin, adjustments to insulin dosage and more frequent glucose monitoring may be necessary. Insulin and pramlintide should not be mixed in the same syringe.
“Three years after receiving two administrations of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine four weeks apart, all members of a group of adults with longstanding type 1 diabetes showed an improvement in HbA1c to near normal levels – improvement that persisted for the following five years. The study from a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team – published in npj Vaccines – also reports that the effects of BCG vaccine on blood sugar control appear to depend on a totally novel metabolic mechanism that increases cellular consumption of glucose.

It was the same endorsement the first Diabetes Surgery Summit, also organized by Cummings in 2007, had made, but the landscape had changed since then. In addition to more accumulated research, this time, their stance was backed by over 50 international professional organizations, including the American Diabetes Association. And while other medical societies and organizations had long backed surgery as an option for diabetes, the DSS-II guidelines are the first meant to guide clinical practice.
The way you take insulin may depend on your lifestyle, insurance plan, and preferences. You may decide that needles are not for you and prefer a different method. Talk with your doctor about the options and which is best for you. Most people with diabetes use a needle and syringe, pen, or insulin pump. Inhalers, injection ports, and jet injectors are less common.
The results of his medical tests are still being analyzed, Darkes said, but he hasn't needed insulin injections for a year and a half. "It took a long time to sink in," he noted. But Darkes is confident he no longer has type 1 diabetes. He said that doctors told him that he has a "rare" gene that somehow facilitated his cure. "I'm the only one who carries [the gene], at the moment," and there's no further explanation so far, he said.
Formal recommendations on how to reverse type 2 diabetes in clinical practice must await further studies. In the meantime, it will be helpful for all individuals with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes to know that they have a metabolic syndrome that is reversible. They should know that if it is not reversed, the consequences for future health and cost of life insurance are dire, although these serious adverse effects must be balanced against the difficulties and privations associated with a substantial and sustained change in eating patterns. For many people, this may prove to be too high a price to pay, but for those who are strongly motivated to escape from type 2 diabetes, the new understanding gives clear direction. Physicians need to accept that long-term weight loss is achievable for a worthwhile proportion of patients (96). In the United States, diabetes costs $174 billion annually (97), and in the United Kingdom, it accounts for 10% of National Health Service expenditure. Even if only a small proportion of patients with type 2 diabetes return to normal glucose control, the savings in disease burden and economic cost will be enormous.
Sulfonylureasmay increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Prolonged exercise and alcohol intake increase the risk for hypoglycemia. Patients undergoing surgery or who have had recent trauma, stress, or infection may need to switch from a sulfonylurea to insulin to manage blood sugar levels. People with kidney or liver disease need to take precaution.
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.
Before making any fiber recommendations, Dean has her patients tested for “pancreatic insufficiency.” She believes people with pancreatic insufficiency should be given digestive enzymes along with fiber, “otherwise the fiber will just bloat them up, and they’ll be quite unhappy,” she says. Dean uses a glucomannan fiber supplement for her patients with type 2 diabetes.
One easy way to increase your fat content and quit snacking is to begin your meal by eating an avocado. I and others I know have used this trick to easily quit snacking. Avocados protect you from one of the reasons some dietary research wrongly claims that high-fat diets are bad for you: the danger of gorging yourself on delicious, fatty foods. With plain avocados, there is little danger of gorging. Another danger is clogging your arteries and giving yourself heart disease. But it’s been amply shown that the blame for that falls squarely on trans fats, like margarine. If you see any product with the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients, put it back, it’s a trans fat. On the other hand, any fat that comes directly from an animal or plant is not a trans fat and can be safely consumed.
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