25 March 2011

Shingles Vaccine (Herpes Zoster)

This is not about diabetes; however, many people with diabetes can develop the painful rash known as shingles. Vaccination for herpes zoster (shingles) in older adults has been shown to reduce the risk of this condition. This also happens irrespective of age, race, or the presence of chronic diseases. This is the findings of a study published in the January 12 issue of JAMA.

Since the above came out, the Food and Drug Administration has lowered the age from 60 and up (in May 2006) to 50 and up. More studies are still required for further action, but at least people will be able to get once they attain the age of 50.

This vaccine has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of individuals from developing herpes zoster. There has been a lot of resistance to its use by clinicians and patients. I agree that solutions need to be found to allow people seeking to receive this vaccine and help them reduce to risk of having this painful experience.

The pain of herpes zoster can be physically disabling and it can also last for months and even years. To date approximately one million episodes occur in the USA each year. Apparently the risk does not vary by age at vaccination, sex, race, or with the presence of chronic diseases. It was determined that the vaccine created a 55 percent reduction in herpes zoster.

Chances are that if you can get the vaccination, you may have the ability to be involved in a study to assist in further analysis of the effectiveness of the vaccine. The most common side effects appear to be redness, pain, and swelling at the injection site and a headache.

Read about the article here and the FDA approval on March 24, 2011 here. And if you have more questions, WebMD has some answers here and here. Be sure to read the last reference if you have had chicken pox and look around the page and check out other information from the first WebMD link.

24 March 2011

Milk Thistle Good For Liver and Brain

Milk thistle is one of those natural remedies that works and for a variety of things. For those of us with diabetes that have trouble with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) also named nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) this can be a real help. An active compound found naturally in milk thistle, silymarin, is shown to provide a significant degree of protection against NAFLD and abnormal brain aging.

Silymarin has shown that it can prevent and reverse liver damage. NAFLD is a chronic disease that is characterized by inflammation of the organ that releases a flurry of free radicals and liver enzymes. Left unchecked, NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis, carcinoma and death. NAFLD may affect up to 40 percent of adults in the westernized world.

The result of research published in the journal Hepatitis Monthly demonstrates the effectiveness of treatment with silymarin for the treatment of NAFLD. Researchers noted a significant decline in liver enzyme markers that indicate reversal of the disease, and no serious side effects were reported as a result of the natural treatment.

Silymarin has been found to protect the nerves and slow the brain aging process. Being one of the few compounds that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, it has the ability to affect the neural function and chemical neurotransmitters.

Information from the journal Neurochemistry International shows that the nutrient is able to protect delicate glial cells in the brain against free radical damage that occurs from a low grade bacterial infection common in overweight and obese people.

Silymarin has demonstrated that it inhibits plaque formation and works to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It works to clear protein amyloid plaques that form and prevent electrical and chemical signaling between neurons. Silymarin helps the brain to naturally clear amyloid plaque before it becomes tangled and restricts normal cellular communication.

Read about it here in John Phillip's blog. Also read what David Mendosa has to say about it and diabetes here. Until I read and then reread these two blogs, I realized how I had glossed over this when I wrote about it earlier, so I will spare you that.

23 March 2011

Carb Counting or Computing Glycemic Load?

I am beginning to see more written about this. I am not yet sure how I feel about it, but the discussion has started so we need to read more to understand it. The buzz lately is using glycemic load instead of counting carbohydrates for determining the amount of insulin to inject before meals.

A new study at the University of Sydney in Australia hints at the number of carbs alone may not be the best method for determining how much insulin to inject. They are considering the glycemic load of food may be a more accurate method that takes into account how quickly it makes the blood sugar in our system rise. Foods with soluble fiber, such as apples and rolled oats, typically have a low glycemic index, one of the contributors to glycemic load.

Most of the study revolved around Type 1 diabetes and no mention has been made of Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is being looked at for dietary change and oral medications, but those of us Type 2's on insulin seemed to be cast aside for now.

In the study using the glycemic load was more effective that carb count in predicting the blood sugar and insulin rise after a meal. A diabetes expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, not involved in the study commented that it was not certain the finding would hold up in people who are not completely healthy.

The glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the number of carbohydrates in grams per serving by the food's glycemic index divided by 100. Before a lot of this can become practical, more foods will need to have the glycemic index determined. There is some lists now, but a long way from complete to say nothing about determining the index based on how the food is cooked.

I see more studies being required and a lot of work needing to be done before this can become a practical reality, but Type 1's and Type 2's on insulin should continue to follow this to see if it will become reality in the future. Also needing discussion will be the complexity of computations required to determine the required dosage of insulin needed by type of insulin.

I also expect that there may be other factors that could affect calculations. Will the glycemic index and glycemic load be required on food labels. Finally, will all the medical professionals learn about the new calculations? For some reason this last question really bothers me as many hospitals and some professionals just don't keep up to date and can't count carbs now.

Read one of the articles on the study here.

22 March 2011

EMRs – An Advantage or Disadvantage

This doctor has the right attitude about electronic medical records (EMRs). For him they are an aid in his work allowing him to access important medical information quickly which allows him more time with his patients. He correctly calls many physicians Luddites. This means that many see the downsides of technological advances and to not appreciate the positive side of EMRs.

This doctor is R. Centor in his February 28, 2011 blog. He is an academic hospitalist that enjoys his work in two hospitals and says it does not affect his bedside manner. He states “my bedside manner does not differ, because being at the bedside is a separate job from recording our visits – or at least it should be.

How I wish we all had doctors like this. Doctors that used to have their heads in the paper records will still have their heads looking at the computer and much of the time not giving their attention to the patient whether in a hospital, office setting, or as an outpatient. Dr. Centor emphasizes the patient first, he states he likes patients, and interacting with them to educate them. He takes his occupation seriously and does not desire to do harm to any patient.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine says that technology may be harming patients. The article states that with all the new technology, and the risk adverse attitude of most doctors, they overuse the technology by over testing and over treating many patients to protect the patients and themselves. This is part of the reasoning behind the skyrocketing cost of medical care.

Even Dr. Centor would agree that many doctors forget their hard-earned knowledge and training and desire to avoid legal entanglements by relying on technology to be on the “safe side” of many diagnoses.

The NEJM article says this makes the U.S. system of medical care almost bankrupt and perpetuates serious economic and racial disparities. This makes our healthcare system rank in the bottom tier among developed countries in children's health outcomes.

The NEJM article says that the U.S. must rediscover the value of clinical judgment and
put technology is perspective and not as the save all that many would like to believe. The article does not think that technology should be the cover-all-possibilities tool, but a tool to be an aid when knowledge leaves us shaking our head because common sense cannot determine what may be wrong.

21 March 2011

NIH announces new plan to combat diabetes

As much as people have had news thrown at them about this bit of promising research and that supposed break through, this is news of a different nature and is not good news for finding a cure.

As much as many of us believe that private industry (Big Pharma) will never have a cure, I can agree that they will bury anything that big for as long as they can get away with it. I suspect the reason many pharmaceutical companies are teaming up with universities and medical schools is to keep tabs and quietly buy up promising ideas and keep them out of existence. You can bet they want to keep the profits from their medications by doing this.

I can hopefully say that maybe government agencies will not fall victim to bribery, but in this case they may be the culprit. The ten-year plan announced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is not a great thing. It sounds like all they are interested in is identifying research opportunities with the greatest potential to benefit people living with or at risk for diabetes and its complications. In other words, they will be directing the investigative community to improve diabetes treatments and identify ways to keep more people healthy. This says that they have little interest in a cure.

The NIH lays out goals to accelerate discovery in the relationship between obesity and type 2, and how both conditions are affected by genetics and the environment; the autoimmune mechanisms at work in type 1 diabetes; the biology of beta cells, which release insulin in the pancreas; development of artificial pancreas technologies to improve management of blood sugar levels; prevention of complications of diabetes that affect the heart, eyes, kidneys, nervous system and other organs; reduction of the impact of diabetes on groups disproportionately affected by the disease, including the elderly and racial and ethnic minorities

Under the plan, NIH will continue to push clinical research in humans, which has in the past led to effective methods for managing diabetes and preventing complications. So under this plan we can expect to see some improvements in treatments, but do not expect a sniff of a cure.

Read the article here.