Another study published in the same journal, however, examined the effect of chromium on glycemic control in insulin-dependent people with type 2 diabetes. People were given either 500 or 1,000 mcg a day of chromium or a placebo for six months. There was no significant difference in glycosylated hemoglobin, body mass index, blood pressure, or insulin requirements across the three groups.
“People need to understand the continuum of diabetes,” she says. “If they’re on an upward trajectory of insulin resistance and a downward trajectory of insulin production weight loss, healthful eating and physical activity will slow down the insulin-loss trajectory and improve insulin sensitivity.” But, she says, “If they gain weight back, the diabetes comes back.”
Type 2 diabetes, although influenced by a person’s genes, is largely thought to be brought about by a poor diet and being overweight for prolonged periods of time, particularly at an old age. The pancreas is either unable to produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells simply don’t react to insulin, which leads to dangerously high blood sugar levels.
Known as gurmar, or “sugar destroyer,” in Aryuvedic medicine, Gymnema has consistently shown benefits in patients with diabetes. The most active part of Gymnema seems to be gymnemic acids, and many products list the percentage each capsule contains. Analyses of the herb for diabetes have shown it may be helpful in lowering high blood sugar levels. It can delay glucose absorption from the intestine. It was shown to regenerate pancreatic tissues, allowing more insulin to be produced, and help regulate insulin secretion. It also increases the utilization of glucose by the cell, reducing insulin resistance and decreasing appetite, especially for sweets. I usually use it in capsules, or in liquid form in some patients. Due to Gymnema having a very similar shape to glucose, it can fit into the taste bud receptors for sugar; it thus has unbelievable power to actually prevent the taste of sweets in the mouth for up to 1.5 hours. When I have a patient who is still struggling to not eat cake and cookies and so forth at parties or celebrations (or just in general), I will give her a tincture of Gymnema sylvestre. This is one of my favorite herbs for diabetes. In capsule form doses of 400 to 2,400 mg a day are recommended.
The accepted view has been that the β-cell dysfunction of established diabetes progresses inexorably (79,82,83), whereas insulin resistance can be modified at least to some extent. However, it is now clear that the β-cell defect, not solely hepatic insulin resistance, may be reversible by weight loss at least early in the course of type 2 diabetes (21,84). The low insulin sensitivity of muscle tissue does not change materially either during the onset of diabetes or during subsequent reversal. Overall, the information on the inhibitory effects of excess fat on β-cell function and apoptosis permits a new understanding of the etiology and time course of type 2 diabetes.
Glucose in the bloodstream passes through the kidneys, where it can either be excreted or reabsorbed. Sodium-glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) works in the kidney to reabsorb glucose, and a new class of medication, SGLT2 inhibitors, block this action, causing excess glucose to be eliminated in the urine. Canagliflozin (Invokana), dapagliflozin (Farxiga), and empagliflozin (Jardiance) are SGLT2 inhibitors that have been approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes. Because they increase glucose levels in the urine, side effects can include urinary tract and yeast infections.
A newer class of diabetes medication, SGLT2 includes three medicines: canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin. These drugs remove extra sugar from your body by blocking it from the kidneys. It also causes your body to be more sensitive to insulin. The most common side effects caused by SGLT2 are vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
The first hint that type 2 diabetes is a fully reversible syndrome came from bariatric surgery. Almost a quarter century ago, Pories et al. (12) demonstrated that blood glucose levels normalized in obese people with type 2 diabetes undergoing bariatric surgery and that 10 years later, almost 90% remained free of diabetes. The phenomenon was more recently tested in a randomized prospective study comparing gastric banding with intensive medical therapy for type 2 diabetes (13). This least invasive type of surgery was most suitable for the randomized study, although it was associated with lower rates of diabetes reversal than other procedures. Mean fasting plasma glucose fell to normal levels in the surgically treated group but declined only modestly in the intensive medical treatment group despite oral agents and insulin (Fig. 1) (13). Remission of diabetes was related to the degree of weight loss rather than to group allocation and was achieved in 73% of the surgical group and 13% of the intensive medical treatment group because surgery was more effective in achieving weight loss as previously described (14). Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by applying a surgical procedure that diminishes fat mass.
Vanadium is a compound found in tiny amounts in plants and animals. Early studies showed that vanadium normalized blood sugar levels in animals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. When people with diabetes were given vanadium, they had a modest increase in insulin sensitivity and were able to lower their need for insulin. Researchers want to understand how vanadium works in the body, find potential side effects, and set safe dosages.
The bottom line is that diabetes can be bad news—but this doesn’t have to be the case. Interventions can prevent or delay the disease in people with prediabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large study of people at high risk of diabetes, has established a prevention plan that’s both feasible and cost-effective. The DPP showed that weight loss and increased physical activity reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58% during a three-year period.
Trick (important): Cut down on sweets, and if you can, cut them out entirely for a couple months. I still eat ice cream about once a week, and know people who are losing weight on this diet while eating ice cream almost every day. But this probably won’t be the case for everyone. Better to severely restrict sweets for the first few months, and then gradually reintroduce.