The Latest from the National Institutes of Health on Diabetes

diabetes researchOver the past 60 years or so, we’ve learned a lot about type 2 diabetes. In 1952, the first federal research grants were funded by the American Diabetes Association, and just a few years later the first oral medications to treat the condition were made available to the public. Then in 1970, the first glucose meter was developed by the Ames Company, making checking blood sugar levels easier for diabetes sufferers.

Since then, more research has been conducted continually, helping us learn more about this disease and the risk factors involved, as well as prevention and management tips. However, despite the strides in research that have been made, as of 2011, type 2 diabetes still affects more than 29 million people and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. This is why these studies continue to be so important in the years ahead.

Recent Research Surrounding Type 2 Diabetes

Today, monitoring type 2 diabetes can be done through blood sugar tests done conveniently at home. As more studies continue to be done surrounding the condition, new and more effective treatments, as well as better prevention methods, will emerge.

In late 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the development of a new task force, established to “coordinate and accelerate progress in nutrition research across the NIH and guide the development for the first NIH-wide strategic plan for nutrition research for the next 10 years.” Because nutrition is a major component in managing diabetes, this research will provide more insight into controlling the condition. The task force will be led by Griffin P. Rodgers, the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the branch of the NIH that conducts research on diabetes and other related conditions.

In the NIDDK’s 2017 Recent Advances and Emerging Opportunities report, issued annually since 2001, more recent diabetes research has been compiled regarding insulin and beta cells, a type of cell found in the pancreas that make up around 65-80 percent of the cells in the islets. What was discovered is that the human pancreas has four separate subtypes of beta cells, and that the islets from people with type 2 diabetes have abnormal percentages of the different subtypes. Researchers then examined how these newly discovered subtypes functioned, and they found that insulin secretion in response to glucose did differ among them. This discovery could ultimately lead to new treatment based on the subtype differences quickly emerging.

The report also discusses the role obesity plays in type 2 diabetes. It was found that obesity causes an inflammatory response that drastically affects metabolic health. As the body tries to combat obesity by triggering inflammation, this can lead to a shift in the metabolic “set point” that maintains weight and blood glucose at heightened levels, which can ultimately result in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

In addition to diabetes research from the NIDDK and the NIH, in 2016 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also announced their Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, which would encourage both employers and insurers to institute diabetes prevention strategies with the goal of providing community-based programming and intervention that keeps people as healthy as possible by preventing the onset of diabetes.

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