This quick research roundup reports on a group of new studies offering advice on how to prevent diabetes or live a healthier life if you already have the disease. One in four African-American women over age 55 are diabetic and millions more are prediabetic. But diabetes-related complications can be avoided if you keep your blood sugar under control and take good care of yourself. Here’s the latest research:
Fasting May Trump Diabetes and Heart Disease
People who are prediabetic may be able to avoid developing diabetes if they lose weight. It also helps to keep cholesterol levels under control. New research reports that cutting your food intake, one day a week, may speed the process.
Researchers at the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, found that fasting — in this case drinking only water — for a 24-hour period lowered cholesterol and increased insulin resistance.
They found that after about 12 hours without food, “the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body,” reported Benjamin Horne, M.D. Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator. “This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes,” he added.
Study participants achieved results by fasting only one day a week, over a six-week period. Researchers say more work is needed to prove that fasting may treat diabetes, and they do not recommend water fasting for more than one day a week.
The Best Diet to Avoid Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet takes the prize when it comes to cutting your diabetes risk, especially if you are already at risk for heart disease like millions of black women. A new study looked at 162,000 people, over 5½ years and found a 21 percent lower rate of diabetes in folks who followed the Mediterranean-eating plan.
Metformin Better for African Americans with Diabetes
The first line of protection for people living with diabetes is strict adherence to medication. The right treatments keep blood sugar low and minimize the damage to the eyes, kidneys and other parts of the body that can occur when blood sugar is high and out of control.
A new study in the June 12 issue the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that the drug metformin, the first-line treatment for diabetes, works better for African Americans than other racial groups. Previous studies on the drug’s effectiveness primarily focused on white Americans.
Lowering hemoglobin A1C levels is one of the key methods of keeping people with diabetes healthy. Metformin was found to lower A1C levels by 0.90 percent in African Americans as opposed to 0.42 in white Americans.
Metformin-Sulfonylurea Drug Combination Safest
Unrelated research also found that people with type 2 diabetes who took metformin and insulin may have a higher risk of mortality.
Researchers discovered that, compared with those who added a sulfonylurea drug, those who added insulin to metformin had 30 percent higher odds of heart attack, stroke and death from any cause during the study period.
The study reports that taking a sulfonylurea drug, such as glyburide (Micronase), glimepiride (Amaryl), glipizide (Glucotrol) may be a better choice if your doctor tells you it would be best to take another medication along with metformin.
But “insulin remains a reasonable option for patients who have very high glucose [blood sugar] or who desire flexible and fast blood sugar control, but most patients taking metformin prefer to delay starting insulin,” said lead researcher Christianne Roumie, M.D., an associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
The team’s research could not explain the difference in mortality between patients on the two different drug regimens and other health experts say more research is needed to prove that there’s a difference. The patients in the insulin group, for example, may have been sicker than those in the sulfonylurea group. In any case, it may be best to discuss the study with your doctor until more information is available.
To learn more about diabetes medications, support groups, dietary recommendation and the latest research, visit the American Diabetes Association.