Diabetes and dementia are two of the most frightening challenges facing public health today. In both cases, we don’t know how widespread they will become in the future.
But let’s compare them for a moment. As Damian Thompson noted this week, scientists are nowhere near finding a cure – or even a properly effective treatment – for Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
In contrast, encouraging reports about our understanding of diabetes emerge every week. Here’s a round-up.
• Implantable ‘artificial pancreas’ could help diabetes patients control their blood sugar: US researchers have designed an algorithm that monitors blood sugar levels and computes an insulin dose that it delivers quickly and automatically when necessary. Science Daily reports: ‘The algorithm is designed to work with implanted devices, specifically with an artificial pancreas, and would overcome the delays experienced with current devices.’
• Diabetes drug helps weight loss: Liraglutide, developed to treat type 2 diabetes has a happy side-effect – patients taking the medication lost an average of more than 12 pounds over 56 weeks, twice as much as those on a placebo. That’s potentially good news for many obese people, but especially those with diabetes, since there’s a correlation between obesity and diabetes.
• A simple test for diabetes ‘can save your life’: An A1C blood panel test measures your average blood sugar level for the past three months and can identify whether you’re ‘pre-diabetic’. The test isn’t new, but far too many people know about its life-saving potential and so there’s a push to spread the word.
• Brown fat therapy reverses type 1 diabetes in mouse trial: A Vanderbilt University School of Medicine study found that mice with type 1 diabetes that received brown fat transplants had their diabetes reversed 53 per cent of the time. Next comes the challenge of trying it on humans.
• Two-drug combo aims to restore insulin production in diabetes: American researchers are beginning the largest-ever study to test a two-drug therapy aimed at restoring insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes.
• Cranberry juice found to help fight heart disease, diabetes and strokes: The finding is from the US Department of Agriculture. It’s a very tentative claim, so treat with caution, but the research did find that cranberry juice was associated with improved blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
These reports aren’t anything like an overview of diabetes research – but they were all published this week. And they offer hope that the ‘diabetes epidemic’ looming in so many countries could be halted. If only the same could be said of dementia.