Diabetes Awareness Month: Going low carb improved my retinopathy symptoms

To celebrate Diabetes Awareness Month we’re showcasing some of the remarkable success stories of the diabetes community.
On Thursday we shared the amazing story of Rachel Griffin, a retired nurse who adopted a low carb approach and lost nearly six stone.

Weight loss is one of the many benefits of going low carb, which include reduced HbA1c levels and even being able to put type 2 diabetes into remission. One of the less reported benefits, however, is reduced symptoms of complications.
John Dixon was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes aged 66, and also had signs of diabetic retinopathy (eye disease). He was prescribed daily metformin and told he may eventually have to be moved onto insulin treatment.
John wasn’t sure whether to trust his dietitian’s advice to eat carbohydrate at every meal, and had reservations about following the NHS’ Eatwell Plate. He began doing his own research and came across the Low Carb Program.
“I followed the program religiously since I joined in September 2017. I try and keep my carbs to 20-50g a day. In four months my HbA1c went from 66 mmol/mol to 44 (8.2% to 6.2), and in March this year I completely came off metformin – I used to be on 3x500mg a day.”
John also experienced improvements in several other health markers including his retinopathy.
“The retinopathy cleared and the tingling in my toes also went by Christmas. I had a blood test recently, which showed my HDL cholesterol (known as the ‘good’ cholesterol) has gone up and my LDL (known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol) has reduced, which is good.”
John was surprised by how much sugar was in foods he previously used to eat. He said: “All the foods that were high in sugar, like fruit for example. I used to have sugar sandwiches or a banana sandwich and 2 ½ teaspoons of sugar in my tea, also enjoyed chocolate bars as snacks, I had no idea how much sugar I was taking in.”
Now off medication, John is managing his type 2 diabetes with diet alone. His retinopathy signs have eased and he is enjoying eating a healthy, real-food diet full of delicious meals.
You can read John’s Low Carb Program story here. People with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes who complete the program sustainably lose an average of 7kg at the one-year mark.

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Metformin could be used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease

The type 2 diabetes drug metformin could be used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease, according to research.
US researchers say they have found evidence to suggest that metformin has a protective effect on the parts of the brain that are usually damaged in those with Alzheimer’s, a common form of dementia.
In the UK Alzheimer’s disease is thought to affect around six in every 10 people who have dementia. It is closely linked with type 2 diabetes although this link is not fully understood.
Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai conducted a post-mortem examination of the brains of 63 people with dementia, around of whom had type 2 diabetes.
They then compared those who took metformin and those who didn’t. There was also a small group analysed which did have either health condition.
The team specifically analysed the common hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, and discovered that those who had been taking metformin had fewer abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels in their brains and less abnormal gene activity.
“The results of this study are important because they give us new insights for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior author Vahram Haroutunian.
“Most modern Alzheimer’s treatments target amyloid plaques and haven’t succeeded in effectively treating the disease. Diabetes medications such as metformin are FDA approved and safely administered to millions of people and appear to have a beneficial effect on people with Alzheimer’s.
“This opens opportunities to conduct research trials on people using similar drugs or on drugs that have similar effects on the brain’s biological pathways and cell types identified in this study.”
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and there is a lot of interest in the links between the two conditions.
“The only way to tell if antidiabetic drugs could help tackle Alzheimer’s disease is through comprehensive clinical trials.”
The findings have been published in the journal PLOS One.
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Diabetes.co.uk co-founder appears on BBC Business Live

One in four people who join Diabetes Digital Media’s Low Carb Program put their type 2 diabetes into remission, the company’s co-founder has told the BBC.
Arjun Panesar, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Diabetes Digital Media and co-founder of Diabetes.co.uk, appeared on BBC Business Live to coincide with the launch of Diabetes Awareness Month.
Mr Panesar spoke about the Low Carb Program’s one-year health outcomes which were published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research.
Speaking live in the studio, he said: “The Low Carb Program is a digital intervention that provides patients with personalised education, support and resources so they can achieve their health goals.
“There’s around four million people with diabetes in the UK and we’ve got 375,000 people with type 2 diabetes on the platform. Published evidence goes to demonstrate that one in four people place their type 2 diabetes into remission within the first year.”
When asked whether those who sign up to the 12-week programme continue with it upon completion, he said: “The evidence that we’re providing is going to demonstrate that this is sustainable. Previously, type 2 diabetes was understood to be a chronic and progressive disease, whereas the data we’re providing is going to show that it’s not anymore. The majority of people they can put it into remission.
“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of people with a number of long-term health conditions coming to the platform and so the data we’re collecting is really helping to push the academic envelope and help everyone understand how nutrition or lifestyle medicine can affect metabolic health.”
During the interview, Mr Panesar explained he had the idea of launching the Diabetes Forum after his grandfather was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes following a heart bypass.
“Food and nutrition has always been a concern for people with diabetes and it was exactly the same for my grandfather. He wasn’t sure what to eat either. It was around the same time Twitter and Facebook were coming out to the UK as well, so we launched the world’s first diabetes support forum.
“Now, when people search on Google for diabetes information they will find us. Diabetes.co.uk is really just one strand. We provide a number of digital health solutions that are for people with diabetes, that are slightly different to other diabetes sites.”
The interview is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days.
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One in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan, survey reveals

One in eight Britons are now choosing to be either vegetarian or vegan, according to a new report.
The figures have been released as part of an annual food and drink survey compiled by Waitrose, which looks at shopping trends among its customers.
The vegan movement continues to grow as millions of people around the world celebrate World Vegan Day, which is always on 1 November and was initially introduced in 1944 to mark the launch of the Vegan Society.
World Vegan Day is the first day of World Vegan Month, which is celebrated worldwide to recognise how beneficial a vegan diet can be.
Veganism is predominately a plant-based diet where animal produce including dairy items and all meats are completely avoided.
Earlier this week a review of several research studies showed that eating a plant-based or vegan diet could significantly reduce risk factors for type 2 diabetes and also improve psychological wellbeing.

The Waitrose report report revealed that the age group of 18-34 were particularly more likely to switch to veganism, but those aged 55 or older were less inclined to switch to the diet.
According to the Vegan Society the number of people who are following the food movement has grown fourfold in the past four years from 150,000 to 600,000.
Rob Collins, Waitrose managing director, said: “Being mindful of how we live and eat has become a priority in today’s world. A consumer revolution is quietly taking place. You won’t see people shouting about it in the shopping aisles, but it’s happening nonetheless.”
We have recently introduced a Vegan Meal Plans series on our award-winning Low Carb Program. The meal plans feature 11 weeks of low carb breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as shopping lists to help you on your low carb journey.

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Diabetes Awareness Month: Retired nurses loses six stone on low carb

Each year Diabetes Awareness Month strives to bring worldwide attention to diabetes, and to commemorate this year’s campaign we’ll be showcasing some of the incredible success stories from the diabetes community.
Users of our award-winning Low Carb Program and Diabetes Forum have reported how making healthy lifestyle changes has helped them to reduce their HbA1c levels, lose weight, improve several health markers and in some cases, even put type 2 diabetes into remission.
Rachel Griffin is a moderator on the Diabetes Forum. She is a retired nurse, aged 56, and has been sharing her inspirational story in a bid to help others.
Last year she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It came “out of the blue”, she said. She struggled to make sense of the NHS’ dietary guidelines, but when she found the Diabetes Forum she didn’t look back.
She cut her carbohydrate intake and regularly tested her blood glucose. Within eight months she had lost nearly six stone.
“I now have a non diabetic HbA1c and have lost five stone in weight.” Rachel said in January. “I feel better than I have done in years. I have immense praise for this Forum, the admins, the moderators and all the Jo public contributors, there is so much expertise here and always a response to be had, whatever the question.”
Earlier this year Rachel featured in the Oxford Mail, and she was also invited to take part in a live interview on BBC Radio Oxford.
Rachel is one of the most inspiring success stories on the Diabetes Forum, and similar stories are being more frequently reported as the benefits of eating healthily are shown to positively impact diabetes management.
Every day throughout Diabetes Awareness Month we’ll feature a success story from the diabetes community. We’ll also be active throughout the month with a number of campaigns to involve the diabetes community, and you stay updated with us on social media using the hashtag #StrongerTogether.
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Type 2 Diabetes and Healthy Living – Start Setting Realistic Goals

Whenever you aim to take on a challenge for a result, you are setting a goal. Goals may be ambitious or straightforward: veer off too much in one direction, and you risk wasting your time. Too simple, and you may not care enough about the result, and feel uninspired. Too ambitious, and you risk trying something too challenging, and finding more frustration than inspiration.

Aim for a balance. Set realistic goals that are not too easy but are well within your reach. If you are setting health goals, this is particularly important…

1. Setting realistic weight loss goals. Let us start with weight loss as it is a subject of much debate and interest. Weight loss requires a more realistic approach than perhaps anything else. It is one thing to say you will lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, and another to be able to follow through. It is much better to tell yourself you will take it one week or one month at a time, and then you will accumulate small, but significant amounts of progress.

One pound a week adds up quickly, and even if you are a bit short, it is progress in the right direction. Don’t be too optimistic about what you can achieve in the long-term. For now, worry about what you can accomplish in the next few weeks and months, and don’t run before you can walk.

2. Realistic nutrition goals. Nutrition is under the same scope because without eating well you are unlikely to make weight loss progress. However, it is best not to aim to drastically reduce your caloric intake, or make the same type of dramatic changes to your diet. Start with small steps. Small changes to your diet will go a long way.

3. Feasible exercise strategies. Exercise is essential. If you have been sedentary and recently had a wake-up call such as the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, you may have decided to change for good. This time it will be different, you tell yourself: that is a good start.

However, be careful about being overzealous. Don’t be too ambitious at first. If you are exercising to achieve…

weight loss,
lower blood sugar levels, or
improving your cardiovascular health,

moderation is key. Going from zero workouts to five or more a week is too much, and it is a difficult goal to sustain.

Instead, establish possible exercise strategies. Aim to exercise three times a week. Do this until it becomes a set routine in your life and you don’t need to think twice about it. If your nutrition is right, you will make progress. You will also be more likely to enjoy your workout at the gym, the walks you go on, and the fitness classes you attend.

Setting realistic goals is ultimately part of establishing a realistic plan for your health. Set health goals you will achieve, and accumulate these successes.

Although managing your disease can be very challenging, Type 2 diabetes is not a condition you must just live with. You can make simple changes to your daily routine and lower both your weight and your blood sugar levels. Hang in there, the longer you do it, the easier it gets.

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JDRF joins forces for Connect Immune Research project to tackle autoimmune conditions

A collection of charities representing people with autoimmune conditions have joined forces to launch a research project to understand the conditions, of which type 1 diabetes is one.
The UK has a high number of people diagnosed with autoimmune conditions, which include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis and Addison’s disease in addition to type 1 diabetes and many others.
Autoimmune conditions are those whereby the immune system targets apparently healthy cells within the body. To date, there are only theories as to why the immune system can act in this way.
The research project, known as Connect Immune Research is a collaboration of three charities; type 1 diabetes research charity, JDRF, multiple sclerosis charity, the MS Society, and arthritis charity, Versus Arthritis in the project. The initiative is also supported by the British Society for Immunology and the Medical Research Council and Wellcome supported its development.
One of the first trials to be run as part of the project is a study into interferons, which are signalling proteins which play an important role within the immune system. Interferons are a particular area of interest in understanding type 1 diabetes as well as other autoimmune diseases.
The interferon study will be led by the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Yanick Crow and will aim to understand more about the role of interferons in autoimmunity.
It is believed about four million people in the UK have an autoimmune condition, including 400,000 people with type 1 diabetes. Almost a third of those with one of these conditions, also have another.
Karen Addington, JDRF’s chief executive in the UK, said: “Autoimmune conditions all involve the immune system acting inappropriately, so we know they are connected. But researchers investigating different autoimmune conditions are not. Until now they have largely worked separately, focused on the specific conditions rather than the interconnected factors of autoimmunity.
“By bringing them together, we can more find information about these conditions – meaning reduced costs, and more new treatments, faster. One insight into one condition could act as a skeleton key, unlocking a range of treatments and even cures.”
Director of research at Versus Arthritis Dr Stephen Simpson said: “The immune system continues to intrigue us and as we get closer to finding ways of moderating its response in inflammatory arthritis, new and unexpected challenges emerge. This is why it’s important for charities and scientists to come together in this way and look at autoimmune conditions collectively, as well as focusing on specific conditions.”
The MS Society’s director of research Dr Susan Kohlhaas added: “Autoimmunity needs to be recognised as a distinct area of research science, alongside the likes of cancer, infectious disease and dementia. We’re driving research into more and better treatments all the time, but autoimmunity must be supported to stand on its own and grow as a research area.”
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Rugby player with type 1 diabetes in FreeStyle Libre mission

Worcester Warriors player Chris Pennell, who has type 1 diabetes, is calling on NHS bosses in his county to end the FreeStyle Libre postcode lottery.
The fullback self-funds the flash glucose monitoring system and says it has transformed his life.
Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre, which eliminates the need for regular finger prick testing for blood glucose levels, became available to the NHS from November last year, subject to decisions at a local level.
Two out of three NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CGGs) in the country now offer the technology. This however leaves people living in the other one in three CCGs, including Worcestershire, unable to access the system unless they pay for it themselves.
The rugby star says decision makers at the CCGs in Worcestershire should act swiftly by allowing the health service to prescribe the device because it “saves lives”.
The 31-year-old, who lives in the city, told Worcester News: “This could save lives. The impact it made on my life was enormous in terms of getting to grips with my diabetes management. It allows you to see early if your glucose is going to rise. Over two thirds of the country have access to Libre, we are lagging behind.”
A former captain of his club, the sportsman was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007.
Speaking about how the technology revealed he was dropping into hypoglycemia in the night, he said: “If I had not [realised], the risk of me having some kind of bad complication was pretty high.”
He believes the FreeStyle Libre will help the NHS to save money because it allows people with diabetes to look after themselves better, reducing the risks of diabetes complications.
Healthwatch Worcestershire is backing the rugby player and is calling on people living in the county with diabetes to come forward and add their names to the campaign.
Speaking to Worcester News, its chief operating officer Simon Adams said: “The benefits are obvious to the layperson but Worcestershire CCGs [Clinical Commissioning Groups] are one of the few CCGs that have refused to fund it.
“To the layperson it appears to be a common-sense solution to managing a complex condition which is absolutely in line with the CCGs policy on self-care and management of conditions and the health minister’s commitment to a digital NHS.”
But a Worcestershire CCGs spokesman said: “Currently the three Worcestershire CCGs do not commission the use of flash glucose monitoring devices. In Worcestershire, the process used to decide which medicines (including appliances such as blood glucose testing equipment) are approved for NHS funding is managed by the Worcestershire Area Prescribing Committee (APC).
“This committee, to date, concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support use of any flash glucose monitoring device at the current time. The situation will continue to be monitored as more data is published.”
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NHS audit reveals importance of preventing diabetes-related complications

The importance of reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications has been emphasised after new data was revealed by the NHS.
The NHS National Diabetes Audit is one of the largest annual clinical audits worldwide, integrating patient information from primary and secondary care practices to assess how care could be improved.
This year’s audit has been released, and it contains an important finding: each week, 500 deaths from avoidable complications such as kidney disease and sight loss could be prevented among people with diabetes.
Over the last three years, deaths from preventable diabetes-related complications have increased by roughly 10%.
This is undeniably concerning information, but it hopefully highlights how complications are indeed preventable.
People with diabetes can reduce their complications risk through focusing on positive changes to health, such as restricting sugar intake. These days many of us do not realise how much sugar is being sneaked into foods by manufacturers.
Getting regular exercise is too beneficial for all-round health and your health team can help you choose a level of activity that is appropriate for you.
Charity Diabetes UK has called on NHS England to continue to improve the quality of local diabetes services, which it has been doing through the Diabetes Transformation Fund.
Since 2017, the NHS Diabetes Transformation Fund has invested more than £80 million across England to improve diabetes care.
The charity stressed that while good work is being done, the statistics revealed in the National Diabetes Audit highlight how the NHS needs to help curb the growing numbers of preventable deaths as a matter of urgency.
Editor’s note: Eating a low carb diet has been shown to have heart health benefits and our award-winning Low Carb Program has helped people with diabetes lose weight, reduce their HbA1c levels and even put type 2 diabetes into remission.
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In This Issue of Diabetes

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