As a global network of medical research charities, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is driving research into new treatments that present tremendous opportunities to deliver enhanced health and wellbeing for people with type-1 diabetes. The technology I am currently most enthused about is glucose responsive insulin, which I think is going to transform how people treat and live with type 1 in the future.
A major feature of the disease is a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose (sugar), from the bloodstream into the body’s cells where it is used for energy. For a variety of reasons that are not fully understood, the body’s tissues don’t respond adequately to insulin and glucose then becomes elevated in the bloodstream.
The ketogenic, or keto, diet calls for dramatically increasing your fat intake and consuming a moderate amount of protein and a very low amount of carbs, with the aim of kicking your body into a natural metabolic state called ketosis, in which it relies on burning fat rather than carbs for energy. Ketosis is different from diabetic ketoacidosis, a health emergency that occurs when insulin levels are low in conjunction with high levels of ketones. (37) Ketones are by-products of metabolism that are released in the blood when carb intake is low.
Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level by promoting the uptake of glucose into body cells. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.
The people at Wellspring were easy to talk to. They were into eye contact, and open about how what Brand had said was true: Beneath the good vibes and aerial-yoga acrobatics, many attendees at this conference told me they were sober or currently dealing with addiction. The ultra-runner Engle was not alone in the conscious replacement of substances with wellness. But addicted or not, many of the people I met had turned to wellness to explicitly fill some space previously occupied by a substance or behavior or person, so as not to relapse into self-destructive habits.
Because both yeast and bacteria multiply more quickly when blood sugar levels are elevated, women with diabetes are overall at a higher risk of feminine health issues, such as bacterial infections, yeast infections, and vaginal thrush, especially when blood sugar isn't well controlled. And a lack of awareness about having prediabetes or diabetes can make managing blood sugar impossible.
Diarrhea and constipation may also stem from diabetes-related gut movement issues. And the conditions may be related. “Diarrhea doesn’t mean fast motion; constipation doesn’t mean slow movement,” says Mashimo, happy to clear up a common misconception. “They can be two sides of the same coin.” Constipation, he says, is caused by slow movement of the bowels, which can cause a buildup of harmful bacteria in the colon that, in turn, triggers diarrhea.
Also known as smart insulin, Professor John Fossey at the University of Birmingham is developing this type of insulin delivery system which is designed to circulate in the body, inactive, until blood glucose levels start to rise. As they do, the insulin goes to work to bring these levels back down, ensuring perfect glucose control throughout any given day.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement, cautiously recommending surgery as a treatment for people living with morbid obesity, meaning they have a body mass index, or BMI, over 40. For people who have health complications connected to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, the limit goes down to a BMI of 35. Relying on these guidelines, insurance companies and public payers like Medicaid and Medicare typically only cover surgery for people living with diabetes who fall into that category.
While scientific controversy still exists over whether a cure for diabetes even exists, the possibility is still bright with current advances in technology. Cutting-edge technologies like stem cells therapies and regenerative medicine are pushing the envelope, and may hold high promise for a potential cure to diabetes, but there’s also still room for advanced oral-based pharmaceuticals to help in the battle against diabetes. Chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes can certainly draw big investments, something we see not just from the above companies but from a well-funded startup called Intarcia Therapeutics that we covered a few years ago when it had raised $759 million. It has now taken in $1.6 billion and is STILL in stage 3 clinical trials more than three years later. In other words, you need more than bright ideas to cure diabetes, but a lot of money to bring these therapies to market.