BMJ: Low carbing for six months can put type two diabetes into remission without adverse effects.

Adapted from Efficacy and safety of low and very low carb diets for type two diabetes remission. Systemic review and meta-analysis by Goldenber JZ et al. BMJ 2021;372:m4743

My comment: Now, we all know this, but there still is a great deal of resistance to the idea that cutting out sugar and especially starch from your diet, can put type two diabetes into remission. Lately there has been a lot more emphasis that very low calorie diets are good for diabetes remission, but let’s face it, starving yourself is no fun at all, and eventually, even if you do manage to keep to a very low calorie diet for many months, you need to do something to maintain that remission, rather than yo-yo back into diabetes. This is why I was pleased to see this report in the BMJ.

This study looked at randomised controlled trials that evaluated low carb diets for at least 12 weeks in adults with type two diabetes. Their definition was less than 130 g of carb a day or 26% of the diet from carbohydrates. A very low carb diet was defined as less than 50g of carb a day or 10% of dietary carbs a day.

They wanted to see if remission was achieved. This was deemed to be a HbA1c of less than 6.5% or a fasting blood sugar of less than 7.0 mmol/L with or without the use of diabetes medication. They also looked at weight loss, HbAIc, fasting glucose and adverse events.

Compared to control diets, low carb diets produced remission at six months in 57% versus 31% in the control diets.

The population studied were 1,357 people aged 47 to 67 years of age and most were overweight or obese. 23 studies were looked at and 14 of these included patients who were on insulin. There was very little in the way of adverse consequences.

Blood pressure difference between arms can be a risk factor for cognitive decline…as well as other things.

From Systolic inter-arm blood pressure difference and cognitive decline in older people, a cohort study. Christopher E Clark. BJGP July 2020


A prospective study was done in 1,113 Italians whose average age was 66.4 years. Even a difference of only 5 degrees between the arms was associated with a greater level of cognitive decline.

My comment: In UK GP practices, only one arm is used to check the blood pressure. In my case, it was the arm that was nearest to the desk. Perhaps we should check both ? Inter-arm BP differences are both associated with cardiovascular disease, and this in turn affects dementia. Then of course, is the question, what can you do about it? For a further discussion of the subject here is Pharmacist Antonio Bess from Diabetes in Control.

Cognitive Decline: Just Life, or a Preventable Disease?
Feb 22, 2020

Editor: David L. Joffe, BSPharm, CDE, FACA

Author: Antonio Bess, Pharm D Candidate, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University School of Pharmacy

Cognitive decline is associated with many diseases and medications, but the exact mechanisms are not clearly understood.
Diabetes, obesity, and declining cognitive function are all associated with increased prevalence with increasing age.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for eye, kidney, neurological and cardiovascular diseases, but its effect on declining cognitive function has been in question. Previous studies have found associations between patients who have diabetes and poor glycemic control and significantly faster cognitive decline. Other studies have demonstrated a pattern in which diabetes, high blood pressure, and high body mass index in midlife predict dementia in late life.

In this prospective study, individuals were followed for up to ten years to find associations between indices in diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, inflammation, and blood pressure with cognitive decline. The indices of interest were measured separately among those with and without central obesity.
The Monongahela‐Youghiogheny Healthy Aging Team is a population‐based cohort of participants recruited randomly from 2006 to 2008, who were 65 and older, and were from a group of small towns in southwestern Pennsylvania. The study is focused on the epidemiology of cognitive decline and dementia in an area that still has not recovered economically from the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s.

Participants were analyzed at study entry, and annual follow up. To measure cognitive function, participants were given a panel of neuropsychological tests tapping the domains of attention/processing speed, executive function, memory, language, and visuospatial function. At study entry and annually, BP, BMI, waist‐hip ratio, and depressive symptoms  were measured.
Key variables at the time of blood draw, including age, sex, race (white vs. nonwhite), education (high school [HS] or less vs. more than HS), APOE*4 allele carrier status, mCES‐D score, BMI, WHR, systolic BP (SBP), and the following laboratory assay variables: CRP, glucose, HbA1c, insulin, HOMA‐IR, resistin, adiponectin, and GLP‐1 were all reviewed to identify predictors of cognitive decline.
Among 1982 participants who were recruited and underwent full assessment at baseline from 2006 to 2008, only 478 individuals were able to provide fasting blood samples. Of this group of individuals, the median age was 82 years; 66.7% were women; 96.7% were white, and 49.0% had more than HS education.

Compared to the 1504 original participants without fasting blood data, at baseline, these 478 were significantly younger (74.6 vs. 78.6 years; P < .001); more likely to be women (66.7% vs. 59.2%; P = .004); more likely to be of European descent (96.7% vs. 94.1%; P < .001); more likely to have at least HS education (49.0% vs. 38.6%; P < .001); but about equally likely to be APOE*4 carriers (19.3% vs. 21.5%; P = .350).
In unadjusted analysis in the sample as a whole, faster cognitive decline was associated with greater age, less education, APOE*4 carriage, higher depression symptoms (mCES‐D score), and higher adiponectin level. HbA1c was significantly associated with cognitive decline.

After stratifying by the median waist-hip ratio, HbA1c remained related to cognitive decline in those with higher waist-hip ratios. Faster cognitive decline was associated, in lower waist-hip ratio participants younger than 87 years, with adiponectin of 11 or greater; and in higher waist-hip ratio participants younger than 88 years, with HbA1c of 6.2% or greater. Higher adiponectin levels predicted a steeper cognitive decline in the lower waist-hip ratio group.
Abdominal obesity plays a crucial role in cognitive decline in those with diabetes. The microvascular disease may play a more significant role than macrovascular disease. Midlife obesity contributes to cognitive decline but there was no midlife data in this study. Future studies should include a large minority, midlife population. Adiponectin levels need to be carefully assessed as well.

Practice Pearls:
In individuals younger than 88 years old, central obesity can lead to faster cognitive declines.
Obesity, diabetes, and aging contribute to cognitive decline, so it’s hard to distinguish the most significant risk.
Adiponectin may be a novel independent risk factor for cognitive decline and should be reviewed.

Ganguli, Mary, et al. “Aging, Diabetes, Obesity, and Cognitive Decline: A Population‐Based Study.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Feb. 2020, p. jgs.16321, doi:10.1111/jgs.16321.
Ganguli, Mary, et al. Aging, Diabetes, Obesity, and Cognitive Decline: A Population-Based Study. 2020, pp. 1–8, doi:10.1111/jgs.16321.
Tuligenga, Richard H., et al. “Midlife Type 2 Diabetes and Poor Glycaemic Control as Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline in Early Old Age: A Post-Hoc Analysis of the Whitehall II Cohort Study.” The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, vol. 2, no. 3, Elsevier Limited, Mar. 2014, pp. 228–35, doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(13)70192-X.
Cukierman, T., et al. “Cognitive Decline and Dementia in Diabetes – Systematic Overview of Prospective Observational Studies.” Diabetologia, vol. 48, no. 12, Springer, 8 Dec. 2005, pp. 2460–69, doi:10.1007/s00125-005-0023-4.

Antonio Bess, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Pharmacy

Dietary gluten in pregnancy is related to an increased risk of type one diabetes in the child

Adapted from Antvorskov JC et al. Association between maternal gluten intake and type one diabetes in offspring. BMJ 22 September 2018

This research was based on a study of Danish women’s food frequency questionnaires completed 25 weeks after their first pregnancies ended. The incidence of diabetes in the children was then noted from January 1996 till May 2016 from the Danish Registry of Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes. After certain exclusions had been made over 63,500 were analysed.

The mean gluten intake per day was 13g ranging from 7g to more than 20g per day.

The incidence of diabetes in the child increased proportionately according to gluten intake. The women who had  20g or more intake had double the type one diabetes in their offspring compared to those who ate 7g or less.

As type one diabetes has risen seemingly inexplicably over the last few decades, there has been a lot of consideration into possible environmental triggers. Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  In animal studies, a wheat free diet in the mother has been found to dramatically reduce the incidence of diabetes in the child.

It has been suggested that gluten can affect gut permeability, gut microbiotica and cause low grade inflammation.

Although there is this association between gluten and type one diabetes it could be that other factors, for example the advanced glycation products from the baking process, that are to blame.  Unwanted additives to grain  could also be a factor eg mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides and fertilisers.

Mothers who eat a lot of gluten may similarly feed their children a lot of gluten. They also may pass gliadin from wheat into the breast milk.

Although this research suggests that high amounts of gluten may be problematic in pregnancy, further research will need to be done before dietary recommendations are likely to be changed.

Wondering if fasting is worth the pain?

Carbohydrate restriction regulates the adaptive response to fasting
S. Klein and R. R. Wolfe 
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.
The importance of either carbohydrate or energy restriction in initiating the metabolic response to fasting was studied in five normal volunteers.

The subjects participated in two study protocols in a randomized crossover fashion. In one study the subjects fasted for 84 h (control study), and in the other a lipid emulsion was infused daily to meet resting energy requirements during the 84-h oral fast (lipid study).

Glycerol and palmitic acid rates of appearance in plasma were determined by infusing [2H5]glycerol and [1-13C]palmitic acid, respectively, after 12 and 84 h of oral fasting.

Changes in plasma glucose, free fatty acids, ketone bodies, insulin, and epinephrine concentrations during fasting were the same in both the control and lipid studies.

Glycerol and palmitic acid rates of appearance increased by 1.63 +/- 0.42 and 1.41 +/- 0.46, respectively, during fasting in the control study and by 1.35 +/- 0.41 and 1.43 +/- 0.44, respectively, in the lipid study.

These results demonstrate that restriction of dietary carbohydrate, not the general absence of energy intake itself, is responsible for initiating the metabolic response to short-term fasting.

Metformin improves side effects of steroid treatment

From Pernicova I et al. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 25 Feb 2020

Long-term glucocorticoids, most often prednisolone, are prescribed for about 3% of European adults. The long term exposure can raise metabolic, infectious and cardiovascular risks.

This was a trial of 53 adults who had inflammatory disease treated with prednisolone but did not have diabetes, who were given either 12 weeks of metformin or a placebo.

The dose of prednisolone was 20mg or more for the first month and then 10mg or more for the next 12 weeks. The dose of metformin given was up to 850mg three times a day.

What improved:

Facial fatness was in seen in 52% of the placebo group but only 10% in the metformin group.

Increased blood sugar was seen in 33% of the placebo group and none of the metformin group.

There was improvement in insulin resistance, beta cell function, liver function, fibrinolysis, carotid intima media thickness, inflammatory parameters and disease activity severity markers in the metformin group.

There were fewer cases of pneumonia, moderate to severe infections and all causes of hospitalisation for adverse events in the metformin group.

What got worse:

Diarrhea was worse in the metformin group.

What didn’t get better:

Visceral to subcutaneous fat ratio was unchanged between the groups.

My comment: Looks like a clear winner for adding metformin to long term prednisolone treatments.

Statin study shows no memory loss

From BMJ 18 Jan 2020

An Australian study looked at how 1,000 community living Australians aged between 70 and 90 got on with memory and cognition tests over a six year period.

It found no differences between people who took statins and those who had never taken them. If anything, statin use reduced decline in memory especially in those with heart disease or who were carriers of apolipoprotein E4.

Magnetic resonance imaging of some of the group detected no effects of statins on total brain volume or on hippocampal or para-hippocampal volumes.

BMJ 2020; 368:m52

Stress may damage your immune response long term

Adapted from: Stress related disorders and physical health.  Song H. et al. BMJ 26 Oct 19.

This Swedish study of almost 145,000 brothers and sisters showed that any sort of anxiety or stress disorder was associated with an increased risk of life threatening infections, even when familial background, physical and psychiatric problems were adjusted for.

The study went on between 1987 and 2013. The stresses included post traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction, adjustment disorder and others. The patients were matched with healthy siblings when possible or matched comparative children from the general population.  They then looked for diagnosis of severe infection in the coming years such as sepsis, endocarditis, meningitis and other infections.

Severe infection rates per 1,000 person years were 2.9 for the stressed person, 1.7 for the healthy sibling, and 1.3 for the matched person in the general population.

They found that the effects were worse the earlier the age the diagnosis of the stress occurred.

Treatment with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors for PTSD seemed to reduce the negative effects on the immune system when given within a year of the stress diagnosis.

This research builds on information that PTSD produces more gastrointestinal, skin, musculoskeletal, neurological, heart and lung disorders.  Cardiac mortality has been found to be raised 27% and autoimmune disorder by 46%.

Why this happens could be due to the interplay between biological, psychological and social factors. Increased inflammatory response is considered by Song and colleagues to be a likely mechanism. Increased levels of interleukin 6, interleukin 1 beta, tumour necrosis factor alpha and interferon gamma have been found in those with PTSD.

PTSD has a heritability factor of 5-20% which is similar to what is found in families with depression.  It is likely to be polygenic.

Talking based therapies are generally even better for PTSD than drugs, so earlier intervention may have long term benefits not just on mental health, but physical health as well.

BMJ 2019;367:16036

Public Health Collaboration conference online a great success

The Public Health collaboration online conference 2020  was very successful.  The videos are available on You Tube for free making the conference even more accessible for everyone who needs advice on what to eat to stay healthy.

If you are able to contribute to the PHC fund to keep up our good work please do so. Sam Feltham has suggested £2.00.  This is via the PHC site.

This year there were contributions from mainly the UK but also the USA.

Visitors to this site will be very pleased to know that keeping your weight in the normal range, keeping your blood sugars tightly controlled, keeping your vitamin D levels up, and keeping fit from activity and exercise, are all important factors in having a good result if you are unfortunate enough to be affected by Covid-19. We have been promoting these factors in our book and website for several years now, mainly with the view to making life more enjoyable, especially for people with diabetes, now and in the future. The reduction in the severity  to the effects of   coronavirus is a side effect of these healthy living practices.

Several talks went into the factors and reasons for this, but in a nutshell, if you are in a pro-inflammatory state already, you will have a much more pronounced cytokine inflammatory response to the virus than is useful for clearing the virus, and you end up with inflammed lung tissue which leaks fluid thereby impairing your blood oxygen levels.

A talk that I found particularly apt was the talk from a GP who had had a heart attack at the age of 44 despite a lack of risk factors except for massive stress. He gives a list of self care practices that helped him. I would also include playing with your animals. Emma and I are cat lovers and can vouch for this!

My talk is about VR Fitness, which was the only talk this year which was specifically exercise related. The Oculus Quest has only been out a year and has been sold out since shortly after New Year. I was fortunate enough to buy one in anticipation of my imminent retirement, and it has been great as an exercise tool over the long, cold, dark winter and more useful than I had ever anticipated over the lockdown as a social tool.

There were several very professional cooking and baking demonstrations on the conference this year, and indeed, this could not have otherwise happened on a traditional stage format.  We had low carb “rice”, bread, pancakes and pizza demonstrations which may well help you if you prefer to see how it is done step by step or if you want to broaden your repertoire.

I was particularly taken with the pizza base idea from Emma Porter and I will follow up with this in a later post.  The whole video is available from the PHC  site which takes you to all the videos on You Tube.




Metformin reduces oesophageal cancer

Adapted from Wang QL et al. American Journal of Gastroenterology 1st January 2020

Metformin users were at a lower risk of developing oesophageal squamous carcinoma than non metformin users.

A growing number of observational studies have shown that metformin reduces overall cancer risk and a few specific cancer types such as colon, rectal, breast and stomach.

A population based cohort study included over 400,000 metformin and an equal number of non metformin users who were matched by age and sex.

There were 3.5 cases of oesophageal cancer in the metformin group per 100,000 person/years and 5.3 in the non metformin group. This finding was true for men, women and those in their sixties.  The odds ratio was 0.68 for metformin use.

Dr Aseem Malhotra: What is wrong with how we try to prevent cardiovascular disease

In part two of this series on cardiovascular disease Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist explains why putting faith in statins to resolve the cardiovascular disease epidemic is misguided. He explains that they only extend life by a matter of a few days yet need to be prescribed for years at considerable cost to the health service. Furthermore, he thinks that their side effects are not being explained to patients.

This is a medium length article which contains information on statins not readily seen in a single document.