Together with evidence of normalization of insulin secretion after bariatric surgery (84), insights into the behavior of the liver and pancreas during hypocaloric dieting lead to a hypothesis of the etiology and pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (Fig. 6): The accumulation of fat in liver and secondarily in the pancreas will lead to self-reinforcing cycles that interact to bring about type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver leads to impaired fasting glucose metabolism and increases export of VLDL triacylglycerol (85), which increases fat delivery to all tissues, including the islets. The liver and pancreas cycles drive onward after diagnosis with steadily decreasing β-cell function. However, of note, observations of the reversal of type 2 diabetes confirm that if the primary influence of positive calorie balance is removed, then the processes are reversible (21).
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.)
For 15 years, Erez Benari’s struggle with his type 2 diabetes had been a losing one. A software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington, Benari had stuck to a restrictive diet that kept him off most carbs, along with regular insulin shots. But still, his high blood sugar levels never dropped, while his health continued to decline. In 2013, the then 39-year-old Benari suffered a heart attack.
In 2003, ephedrine -- also known as ma huang -- became the first herbal stimulant ever banned by the FDA. It was a popular component of over-the-counter weight loss drugs. Ephedrine had some benefits, but it could cause far more harm, especially in high doses: insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep), high blood pressure, glaucoma, and urinary retention. This herbal supplement has also been associated with numerous cases of stroke.
What’s critical is not necessarily the cutoff itself, but where someone falls within the ranges listed above. The level of risk of developing type 2 diabetes is closely related to A1c or FPG at diagnosis. Those in the higher ranges (A1c closer to 6.4%, FPG closer to 125 mg/dl) are much more likely to progress to type 2 diabetes, whereas those at lower ranges (A1c closer to 5.7%, FPG closer to 100 mg/dl) are relatively more likely to revert back to normal glucose levels or stay within the prediabetes range. Age of diagnosis and the level of insulin production still occurring at diagnosis also impact the chances of reverting to normoglycemia (normal blood sugar levels).
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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.
The role of physical activity must be considered. Increased levels of daily activity bring about decreases in liver fat stores (43), and a single bout of exercise substantially decreases both de novo lipogenesis (39) and plasma VLDL (92). Several studies demonstrated that calorie control combined with exercise is much more successful than calorie restriction alone (93). However, exercise programs alone produce no weight loss for overweight middle-aged people (94). The necessary initial major loss of body weight demands a substantial reduction in energy intake. After weight loss, steady weight is most effectively achieved by a combination of dietary restriction and physical activity. Both aerobic and resistance exercise are effective (95). The critical factor is sustainability.
TCM views the human body and its functioning in a holistic way. From this perspective, no single body part or symptom can be understood apart from its relation to the whole. Unlike Western medicine, which seeks to uncover a distinct entity or causative factor for a particular illness, TCM looks at patterns of disharmony, which include all presenting signs and symptoms as well as patients’ emotional and psychological responses. Humans are viewed both as a reflection of and as an integral part of nature, and health results from maintaining harmony and balance within the body and between the body and nature.3
Benari, an Ashkenazi Jew, doesn’t fall into that category. But Cummings and other bariatric experts I spoke to said that surgery should be a possible option for any person whose diabetes isn’t improving. Cummings himself is currently working on a clinical trial in India of bariatric patients with BMIs as low as 25. And he expects similar trials will come down the pipeline.
Our research project directory showcases the diverse and exciting array of diabetes research projects that we are supporting all over the UK. Everything you see is possible thanks to the continued support of our members, donors and voluntary groups – who help us decide which studies deserve the charity's support and help raise the money that is vital to research.
Dr. Steven Lin is a dentist who focusses on the mouth-body connection. Through ancestral nutrition, the oral and gut microbiome, and epigenetics, his programs aim to prevent chronic dental and systemic disease. His book 'The Dental Diet', will be released on January 18'. To receive free updates on functional oral health from Dr. Lin, subscribe to his newsletter below.