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Benefits of Continuous Glucose Monitoring With Insulin Injections in Type 1 Diabetes

>> Monday, February 13, 2017






In people with diabetes, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is an alternative to checking sugars with frequent finger pokes.  CGM is available as a stand alone tool, or can be integrated with an insulin pump system.  Most studies showing the benefits of CGM were done in people using insulin pumps.  Now, two studies show the benefits of CGM in people with type 1 diabetes using insulin injections to treat their diabetes.

The first study, published in JAMA, randomized 158 people with type 1 diabetes using insulin injections to use of either the usual form of self blood glucose monitoring (finger pokes) vs CGM.  At 6 months, the hemoglobin A1C (a marker of diabetes control) was 0.6% lower in the people using CGM compared to those using finger pokes.   People using finger pokes to check sugars during the study were also wearing a CGM during the study, but they could not access the readings on the CGM, with the purpose being for researchers to analyze what the CGM showed in the people using finger pokes during the study.  Importantly, this analysis found that people using CGM spent 37 minutes less per day with low blood sugar (43 minutes per day, compared to 80 minutes per day for people using finger pokes).

The second study, also published in JAMA, compared the effect of CGM vs finger poke monitoring in the same person, using a crossover design.  Patients were randomized to use either CGM or finger pokes for 6 months, then did the reverse for the next 6 months (with a 17 week break in between).  Amongst these 161 patients with type 1 diabetes, hemoglobin A1C was 0.43% lower during the time of CGM use, and they also reported less fear of hypoglycemia, greater well being and greater treatment satisfaction while using CGM. Patients were hypoglycemic 4.79% of the time while using finger pokes (using data from masked CGMs), vs 2.79% of the time with use of CGM.

One thing that I found particularly disturbing about these studies was the amount of time patients spent with low blood sugars.  While CGM improves upon this, we would ideally like patients with diabetes to have zero hypoglycemia.  CGM units have alarms that alert a patient when blood sugar is low, which can be lifesaving, especially for people who don't feel their low sugars and are at risk of sleeping through a low.  Hopefully improved glucose monitoring technology, as well as better insulins being developed, will help us to reduce lows further.  CGMs are unfortunately quite expensive, though some people are able to get the expense covered - talk to your insurance provider (if you have one) and/or your diabetes educator to find out about your options.

These studies clearly support the potential benefits of continuous glucose monitor (CGM) use in people with type 1 diabetes using insulin injections.


Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017


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New Class of Cholesterol Medication Prevents Heart Attacks

>> Monday, February 6, 2017




Statin medications have long been the main class of medications that have been recommended to lower cholesterol, as they have been shown to be very powerful to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.  Now, a new class of medications joins the ranks of statins: the PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab (Repatha) has been shown to reduce cardiovascular events.

The top-line results of the study, called the FOURIER study, have now been released.  This was a study of 27,500 patients with cardiovascular disease who were already on optimized statin therapy, randomized to receive either evolocumab or placebo.  They found that evolocumab reduced the risk of their primary endpoint, which was the sum of cardiovascular death, non fatal heart attack, non fatal stroke, hospitalization for unstable angina, or coronary revascularization (angioplasty).

I am looking forward to learning more about the results of this trial and the amount by which risk was reduced - these data will be released in March at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Washington DC.  It will be interesting to compare these results to the results of the IMPROVE-IT trial, which showed that the combination of statin therapy with the cholesterol lowering medication ezetimibe lowered the risk of cardiovascular death, major coronary events, or non fatal stroke by 2.0 percentage points compared to statin therapy alone.

It is encouraging to see a new class of cholesterol medications being developed that reduce cardiovascular events.  There are many patients who do not tolerate statin therapy; perhaps the PCSK9 inhibitors may also reduce cardiovascular risk for them (studies on this are currently underway).  PCSK9 inhibitors are extremely expensive, which limits their use in clinical practice.  Perhaps with these data, guidelines will be revised and we may hopefully see more coverage options so that the benefits of PCSK9 inhibitors to reduce cardiovascular events can be more widely enjoyed.

Disclaimer: I have been involved in a clinical trial of PCSK9 inhibition. I have received honoraria as a medical education speaker and consultant from the makers of ezetimibe (Merck).



Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017




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Bariatric Surgery - Can We Predict Remission of Diabetes?

>> Monday, January 30, 2017




One of the most important benefits of bariatric surgery (especially gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy) is its ability to improve the control of type 2 diabetes, often to the point where type 2 diabetes actually goes into remission after surgery.  Not everyone with type 2 diabetes who has bariatric surgery will experience remission - about 70-80% of patients having gastric bypass and about 50-60% of patients having sleeve gastrectomy will experience remission.  Ideally, we would be able to predict the likelihood of diabetes remission before the surgery is done, as this is arguably one of the most important potential benefits of bariatric surgery.

A recent study tried to answer this question using a scoring system called the DiaRem Score, which looked at at 4 preoperative variables amongst a group of 407 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery:
  • age
  • need for insulin 
  • diabetes medication use (points assigned varied by type of medication)
  • hemoglobin A1C (a blood test which is a 3 month report card of diabetes control)

They found that this score, which is based on the above 4 variables, was highly predictive of who went into remission from their type 2 diabetes and who did not.

Other scoring systems and variables have been looked at as well.  Other variables that stands out in the literature are a shorter duration of diabetes, and preoperative serum C peptide level, which is a marker of a person's ability to produce insulin.

It is exciting to know that as we learn more about bariatric surgery, that we can become better at predicting who may benefit from a diabetes standpoint.  However, a word of caution - longer term studies suggest that for people who do enjoy diabetes remission after bariatric surgery, the diabetes recurs in about 50% of these people by 5 years post op.  While there is still certainly a health benefit to being free of diabetes for a number of years, it is important to remember that the diabetes can return and must be screened for regularly and lifelong.


Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017



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Marijuana and Diabetes Risk - Friend or Foe?

>> Monday, January 23, 2017




In follow up to my blogs about the increased risk of diabetes associated with smoking (read more here), some of my colleagues have asked me to comment on whether there is also an increased risk of diabetes associated with marijuana use.  With the advent of medical marijuana, and the plans to legalize marijuana use in Canada, this is definitely an excellent question.

A question, which it turns out, we have very little data on which to base an answer.

One study examined body fat, insulin sensitivity, and various aspects of beta cell function (the pancreatic cells that make insulin) in 30 cannabis smokers, and compared them to people matched for age, gender, ethnicity, and body mass index. They found that cannabis smokers had a higher percentage of abdominal visceral fat (the fat around the organs that is the metabolically dangerous (diabetes inducing) fat).  Good cholesterol (HDL) was a little lower, and carbohydrate intake a little higher, but otherwise, there was not much difference between groups.

Another study evaluated metabolic parameters in 4657 adults from the American NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), 579 of whom were current marijuana users. They found that current users had a 16% lower fasting insulin level, and had less insulin resistance as well  (17% lower HOMA-IR, for the scientists in the audience), suggesting a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Use of marijuana in this study was associated with smaller waist (a crude way to measure abdominal visceral fat - which contrasts with the findings in the first study above).

Other than these studies, there is very little data on marijuana and its effect on diabetes risk.

At this point, the available data does not suggest that marijuana carries the increased risk of developing diabetes that cigarette smoking does, with one study suggesting that it may even be protective of developing diabetes. However, the data is extremely limited, and further study of the effects of marijuana is much needed.


Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017


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Diabetic Neuropathy

>> Monday, January 16, 2017





One of the main reasons why long term blood sugar control is so important in diabetes is the prevention of diabetes complications.   Diabetic neuropathy, which is damage to nerves caused by chronic elevation in blood sugars, is one of the complications we are trying to prevent.   Diabetic neuropathy affects a lot of people (you may be surprised by just how many - read on!), can be present in people who don't even have diabetes yet, can take many different forms, and can have a profound impact on the quality of life of people living with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association has recently released a Position Statement (download is free) to help guide clinicians in understanding, diagnosing, preventing, and managing this complication of diabetes.

Some key points from this article:

1.  Diabetic neuropathy (DN) is a diagnosis of exclusion.  In other words, just because a patient with diabetes has findings of neuropathy, doesn't mean that the diabetes is necessarily the cause.  Other causes of neuropathy (discussed in the article) need to be ruled out before the nerve problem is attributed to diabetes as the cause.

2.  There are many types of diabetic neuropathy.  Distal symmetric polyneuropathy usually starts with symptoms in the feet, including numbness, tingling, pain, and burning, especially at night.  Autonomic neuropathies can affect/include the heart, ability to maintain blood pressure when standing up (orthostatic hypotension), the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, sexual dysfunction, or dysfunction in sweating. There are also forms of diabetic neuropathy that can affect specific nerves (cranial or peripheral), or bundles of nerves as they exit the spinal column.

3.  Diabetic neuropathy is common. Distal symmetric polyneuropathy affects 50% of people with type 2 diabetes after 10 years, and 20% of people with type 1 diabetes after 20 years.  Autonomic neuropathy involving the heart may affect up to 60% of people with type 2 diabetes after 15 years, and up to 30% of people with type 1 diabetes after 20 years.

4.  Diabetic neuropathy can be present in people with prediabetes.  Distal symmetric polyneuropathy may be present in 10-30% of people with impaired glucose tolerance, and autonomic neuropathy affecting the heart has been found in people with impaired glucose tolerance as well.

5.  Prevention of diabetic neuropathy is key, as there is no effective treatment available for established nerve damage.  Prevention is achieved primarily through optimizing blood sugar control. Lifestyle interventions are recommended for prevention in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and a multifaceted approach including targeting of cardiovascular risk factors is recommended for prevention of cardiac autonomic neuropathy in people with type 2 diabetes.

6.  Management of established diabetic neuropathy is directed towards the particular type of neuropathy each patient has.  This can include pain control medication, fall prevention, and specific treatments to manage symptoms of the autonomic neuropathies.


Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen

www.drsue.ca © 2017

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A HEARTFELT WELCOME!

I am excited that you have arrived at my site, and I hope you are too - consider this the first step towards a Healthier New You!! As a medical doctor, Endocrinologist, and obesity specialist, I am absolutely passionate about helping people with weight management. Though there is certainly no magic cure for obesity, there IS a successful treatment plan out there for you - it is all about understanding the elements that contribute to your personal weight struggle, and then finding the treatment plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle. The way to finding your personal solution is to learn as much as you can about obesity: how our toxic environment has shaped us into an overweight society; the diversity of contributors to obesity; and what the treatment options out there are really all about. Knowledge Is Power!!


Are you ready to change your life? Let's begin our journey together, towards a healthier, happier you!!




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