The device combines an insulin pump and glucose monitor, which link to an app that uses an algorithm to analyse blood glucose levels and deliver insulin as needed to keep levels stable. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
An artificial pancreas may help Type 2 diabetes patients regulate their blood glucose levels better than without it. And there’s no risk of sugar dipping to unhealthy low levels. Scientists from Cambridge University, UK, conducted a trial using the artificial pancreas, which is a closed-loop system that consists of an insulin pump and glucose monitor, and linking it to an app the researchers developed. And at the end of it, participants who used the artificial pancreas stayed in their target glucose range for twice as long as they did without the system.
The artificial pancreas is not a surgical implant but a technological device the user wears on the body that mimics how the pancreas works. Researchers from the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge tested the new tool on Type 2 diabetes patients, who were in end-stage renal failure and on dialysis. And now they think that this method, which can be rolled out in a year as they await approval, can just as well work on people with various stages of Type 2 diabetes. The results of the study appear in Nature Medicine. The device combines an insulin pump and glucose monitor, which link to an app that uses an algorithm to analyse blood glucose levels and deliver insulin as needed to keep levels stable.
“The success of the device doesn’t come as a surprise; it is a proof-of-concept study. The closed loop system, which can sense the glucose load and regulate insulin, has been successful in Type 1 diabetes. And since Type 2 diabetes has multifactorial triggers, this research shows that this is indeed a safe method and most importantly shows that this does not increase the risk of hypoglycemia. So, it would indeed help insulin-dependent patients for whom maintaining sugar levels is a moment to moment challenge,” says Dr Ambrish Mithal, Chairman and Head, Endocrinology and Diabetes, Max Healthcare.
Of course, this being a single-centre study, Dr Mithal hopes it will be spread to a greater catchment area for better data collection and long-term impacts. “The two things that I find concerning are the cost of the device and the comfort of living with a tech tool and using technology. This won’t be affordable at the word go and would be quite expensive. Besides, not all insulin-dependent patients are tech savvy. I have seen many of my patients struggle with their insulin pumps in the first place. Some of my younger patients take to the pump very easily but I have seen others who are quite sensitive about slapping something onto their bodies. So the ease of wearability and the comfort of technology need to be factored in for mass use,” adds Dr Mithal.
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The researchers studied a group of 26 people with Type 2 diabetes. The first group used the device for eight weeks and then switched to eight weeks of standard therapy. The second group started by receiving standard injection therapy for eight weeks and then switched to the device. The goal was to see how much time patients of each group spent with their glucose in the target range of 3.9 and 10 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), the glucose range considered acceptable. Patients with the artificial pancreas stayed within the target range 66 per cent of the time, compared to just 32 per cent when using standard injection therapy.
It is known that type 2 diabetes is caused when the insulin hormone does not properly regulate glucose in the body. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
Diabetes can be a life-altering disease and hence requires one to make lifestyle and diet changes. As such, there are many things a diabetic must keep in mind to ensure their blood sugar levels are always under control.
If you have just been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, here’s some help from Ridhima Batra, certified diabetic educator, sports nutritionist, and founder of Nutrition Defined.
“Recognise that type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease and managing it soon after diagnosis (or before) will pay off now and in the long term. It is a serious disease that demands your attention. Ignoring it may not seem to have significant short-term consequences (chronic high blood glucose levels are not painful), but over time, elevated glucose levels can damage your nervous system, blood vessels, eyes, heart, and kidneys,” she said.
Which is why, managing your blood glucose levels now, along with other health risk factors (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure, weight), is necessary for preventing these complications. “Losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off can improve glucose control as well as have other clinical benefits. Better diabetes management will also benefit you in the here and now – your mood and energy levels are adversely affected when your glucose levels are high,” the expert added.
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She added that food has a major impact on blood glucose – so optimising your mealtime, making informed food choices, and exercising portion control play a huge role in blood glucose management.
“The life you lead and the food you eat are two important factors when it comes to diabetes. Whole foods that are not processed should always be on the menu. But also remember that some items must always be away from the dining table if you want to steer clear of diabetes,” she advised.
Additionally, avoid special diets and stick to what you make at home. Just follow the basic rules:
- Avoid drinks with lots of added sugars and carbohydrates (unless you have low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia). Staying away from regular soda and large amounts of fruit juice is usually wise.
- Add more low GI (glycemic index) foods in your diet.
- Avoid all refined and processed foods, especially the packaged variety.
- Impose portion control. Make sure you fill half your plate with veggies or salad, ⅓ portion of your complex carbohydrates and the other ⅓ portion with a protein source.
- Add healthy fats and protein to your meals to balance the sugar levels (helps in lowering the GI of the meal) and curb sugar cravings.
Incorporate activity into your routine
Physical activity is the perfect partner to your healthy eating plan: Food gives you energy, and activity can help to burn it up! The American Diabetes Association recommends accumulating 30 minutes of aerobic activity such as walking on most days, with the addition of resistance training (pushing, pulling, lifting) two or three times a week.
Your physical activity plan should, over time, include three types of activity:
- Aerobic or cardiovascular activity that benefits the heart and lungs (walking, biking, swimming, dancing, stair-climbing). *Resistance or strength training (lifting, pulling, pushing). *Stretching and flexibility.
Use blood glucose testing to identify patterns and be regular with your follow-ups
“Check-ups are an important part of diabetes care. The only way you can confidently know what your blood glucose level is at any given time is by testing it. Regular testing will help you identify high and low levels before serious problems develop. When testing is performed on a regular basis, it helps you assess how well you are balancing your insulin therapy, meal planning, and exercise to manage diabetes,” she added.
These test results will also provide valuable information for your doctor to help make adjustments to your overall care plan.
Simple sugar checks can be done at home using a glucometer, while advanced checks are done at health centers. Advanced sugar checks are done on a weekly, monthly and annual basis, and include checking the condition of blood sugar, cholesterol, and kidney performance.
Work with a diabetic educator
Diabetes educators are certified health care professionals with specialised knowledge in diabetes self-management and education. Early detection, prevention, and treatment are the keys to minimising diabetes complications. Work with your diabetic educator to customise your diabetes care schedule, including personal goals and targets.