Here’s a scary thought about one of America’s leading causes of death: in addition to the 29.1 million people who have diabetes, there are 86 million over the age of twenty who are prediabetic. This reality seems pretty daunting, but new research suggests a cure for type 2 diabetes which accounts for 90 percent of cases nationwide. With type 2 diabetes rising at an alarming rate because of obesity in America, this potential cure is not only timely but necessary.[1,2,3]
A Very Brief History of Type 2 Diabetes
The earliest record of diabetes that we know of is from the year 1552 BC. Physician Hesy-Ra recorded on 3rd Dynasty Egyptian papyrus that frequent urination is a symptom of the disease. Approximately one century later in the year 500 BC, people recorded descriptions of sugar in the urine and noted its occurrence in obese individuals. Because people believed that diabetic urine had a sweet taste, the Latin word for honey – Mellitus – was added to the term ‘diabetes’.
In 1776, English physician Matthew Dobson observed diabetic urine. When he evaporated the urine, he found a brown sugar-like substance which both tasted and looked like brown sugar. Dobson noticed this flavor in diabetic blood as well. Upon further study, he observed that diabetes is fatal five weeks or less for some people while, for others, it’s a chronic condition. Dobson’s observations highlight the first time anyone ever made a distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
American physician Frederick Allen believed that diabetics’ bodies couldn’t use food normally. So, in 1916, he promoted a diet that limited what and how much diabetics could eat. Those admitted to the hospital consumed whiskey mixed with black coffee six times a day, five days a week. After this, they’d follow a strict diet which unfortunately resulted in many type 1 diabetics dying likely due to starvation. Allen, however, saw very positive outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes.
In 1959, two major types of diabetes are recognized: type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes and type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes. Since then, various testing equipment and supplies have come out and provided diabetic patients with far more control and flexibility in managing the disease. But there’s still a long way to go!
If you want to fill in the historical gaps, see this detailed diabetes timeline.
Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
Our bodies have a pancreas, a gland that is long and flat and works behind-the-scenes in our bellies. It helps with digestion but, more significantly, plays a key role in controlling our blood sugar levels. Our pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which helps cells turn glucose – a type of sugar – from our food into energy.
People with type 2 diabetes, however, have cells that don’t use this insulin effectively. This is called ‘insulin resistance’. When insulin fails to help transport glucose into the cells, your pancreas thinks it needs to produce more insulin. But at a certain point, it becomes overworked and can’t produce the insulin required to process your body’s blood sugar. Because of this, the sugar in your bloodstream continues to build up.
High blood sugar can result in:
Unexplained weight loss
Recent Study: New Drug Could Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
In March 2017, University of California San Diego’s Stephanie Stanford and her team published a study in the Nature Chemical Biology that should make people with type 2 diabetes very hopeful. Researchers observed the effects of drugs that ideally restores the body’s sensitivity to insulin and ability to control blood sugar levels. Doing this successfully would hopefully curb the steadily increasing rate of diabetes in America.
How the Type 2 Diabetes Drug Works
To date, we are unable to treat insulin resistance, but this newly developed could change that!
There is a gene that makes an enzyme called low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase (LMPTP). The enzyme seems to be at least partly responsible for cells becoming less sensitive to insulin. Over the years, researchers have noticed LMPTP in people with diabetes-like problems which is what made this team want to explore it more deeply. To do this, they gave the drug orally to mice with type 2 diabetes and a high-fat diet.
The drug is meant to stop the LMPTP-producing gene. By doing so, the drug will, in effect, wake up the cells’ insulin receptors.
What Researchers Found
“We found that LMPTP is a critical promoter of insulin resistance that develops during obesity,” said Stanford. “Our inhibitor increased activation of the insulin receptor in the liver and reversed diabetes without any apparent side effects.”
According to Daniel Drucker of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, “the elegant studies here provide proof of concept that targeting LMPTP in the liver improves glucose control and liver insulin signaling in animals.”
What Does this Type 2 Diabetes Drug Mean for Humans?
The current drug is “very specific for the target and we do not see any side effects after treatment for a month,” says Stanford. “[But] the next step is to rigorously establish if it’s safe for use in clinical trials.”
Before researchers can begin testing the drug on humans, however, the team is currently working on animal safety testing. But keep your ears open for updates about this exciting research! Science may not be too far from a cure for type 2 diabetes.
Metformin: How Does it Compare to the New Drug?
Metformin, an oral diabetes medication, is the current most popular drug specific to type 2 patients. People often take it in combination with other medications, but its main goal is to help control blood sugar levels. Some of the most common side effects of Metformin are nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, or diarrhea.
It’s hard to make an outright comparison when the newly developed drug hasn’t yet reached human trials. However, the absence of apparent side effects in the mice is a promising sign. One thing to keep in mind also is that Metformin helps control – not reverse – type 2 diabetes. So, if the researchers do find success with this new drug in humans, it will be an incredible accomplishment for millions of people in America.
Other Ways You Can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes, Drug-Free
We believe that drugs should always be secondary, but we understand the challenge that people with type 2 diabetes face when trying to alter their lifestyle for the better i.e. through healthy eating habits and exercise. This basically sums up the reason why The Hearty Soul even exists: to walk through this journey and provide you with the most honest, helpful, and practical information possible.
Here are some options:
If you have type 2 diabetes, this is how insulin prescriptions are worsening your condition
Here are 21 signs you likely have an insulin resistance and how it’s preventing weight loss
Use these 7 lifestyle tweaks to help reverse type 2 diabetes and keep it that way
Don’t let type 2 diabetes stop you from eating well: 32 recipes that won’t spike blood sugar
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.