Painless way to check your blood sugar levels

People with diabetes detest the daily process of pricking their fingers to monitor their blood sugar levels. Despite this dreadful routine activity, it is necessary to manage and control this medical condition. Diabetes is a long-term illness characterised by high sugar levels in the blood. Patients either produce too little insulin to process the sugar or are unable to respond well to the insulin produced.

Fortunately there are now non-invasive methods to check your blood sugar levels.

Glucostat System, a Singapore company and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed a prototype monitoring device using light to measure blood sugar readings.

Accordingly to the inventors, they accidentally discovered that light waveforms attached themselves differently to blood containing varying amounts of HbA1c, the sugar molecule that chemically attaches to the haemoglobin in the blood.

The more sugar in the blood, the more HbA1C will be present in the blood.

The device was made from a customised laser diode and all the patient needs to do is to place a finger over the probe for between 10 to 20 seconds. In May 2010, trials involving 30 people were carried, 19 of whom were non-diabetics. The remaining patients have chronic condition and whose blood sugar levels were badly controlled.

Blood was also taken at the same time to serve as a comparison and the results showed excellent correlation for both the high and low levels.

The inventors believe the test is presently one of the best ways to diagnose diabetes because it provides a more accurate reading of blood sugar levels. An average HbA1c level taken over time has also less variation than a one-off test.

The HbA1c test (also called glycolated haemoglobin) gives a result that shows how well the disease has been controlled over the previous six to 12 weeks. This will also show how effective the patient’s management plan is working. A non-diabetic’s HbA1c glucose reading is 5 per cent to 6 per cent and the goal in diabetes management is to reach 7 per cent or less. An HbA1c glucose reading of 8 per cent and above would mean the diabetes is badly controlled.

Some doctors said that while it is good to obtain the average HbA1c level without having to draw blood, a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour blood-glucose monitoring may sometime be necessary. Patients need to be pricked three to four times a day, to ascertain whether the level is too high or too low under different conditions. This new prototype machine is still not able to give such live feeds. Also these readings may not be accurate due to fluctuations such as body temperature and blood pressure.

There are two other monitoring devices in the market namely skin testing and continuous glucose testing. There are disadvantages associated with both methods. Skin testing uses a special sensor pad which may irritate the skin and readings may be affected by sweat. Continuous glucose testing is expensive, costing up to $2000 and the sensory pad which is paced under the skin need to be moved periodically.

Despite these reservations these non-invasive screening technologies look promising and may radically change how diabetes could be managed in clinics and at home.

New Discoveries in Cancer Treatments offer more options

According to the World Health Organisation the number of cancer deaths worldwide could double by 2030 to reach 13 million.

Patients who are suffering from lethal types of cancers, like brain, lung, liver, ovarian and pancreas, do not respond well to existing therapies. This is bad news.

However there is good news too. Recent discoveries in cancer treatments are raising more hope for researchers as well as patients.

Cancer experts who met at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology last month were encouraged by the recent victories in treating cancer. Instead of the conventional way of standard chemotherapy, new therapies are taking a bigger role in targeting key tumour functions and destroying the cancer cells by boosting the immune system.

Patients with advanced or metastasized cancers, with limited treatment options, have shown increased rates of survival.

Researchers have discovered that an experimental drug, ipilimumab, can extend the lives of patients suffering from advanced melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer that is increasing at a faster rate than other types of cancer.

Crizotinib, another experimental drug, was also shown to shrink tumours in advanced lung cancer patients.

Patients of advanced ovarian cancer have shown good progress in clinical trials of Avastin, a drug that cuts off supply of nutrient-rich blood to the tumours.

The life expectancy of men suffering from advanced prostate cancer can be significantly improved by adding radiation to hormone deprivation therapy.

Researchers are able to produce cancer vaccines that are more effective by using a common diabetic’s drug known as Metformin. They discovered that this anti-diabetic drug works better by boosting the number of cancer fighting T-cells.

These T-cells have immunological memory and can fight off a tumour that might occur later.

This discovery could revolutionise current strategies for therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines. Therapeutic vaccines are meant to treat illnesses that have already occurred and can be developed to treat many types of cancer including breast, prostate and lung.

Prophylactic vaccines are designed to prevent diseases from developing in healthy people, and can be developed to treat liver and cervical cancers.

In Singapore, scientists have discovered a way to halve chemotherapy costs for advanced breast cancer patients by using a $9 anti-fungal drug meant for dandruff and athlete’s foot infections.

Scientists at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore found that Ketoconazole, the anti-fungal drug, complements chemotherapy treatment as it impedes an enzyme in the body from breaking down a drug used to treat cancer.

Chemotherapy treatment uses a drug known as Docetaxel to treat breast, stomach, lung and prostate cancers. Patients undergo a total of  four cycles, each cycle once every three weeks and this cost between US$1300 to $1800. Using Docetaxel together with Ketoconazole, the concentration level of the chemotherapy was reduced by 40 per cent and in turn halving the cost while maintaining the desired results.

In a separate trial done recently involving 2000 women from nine countries, it was found that a single dose of radiation during surgery was just as effective for breast cancer patients as receiving weeks of radiation.

This new technique, called Targeted Intraoperative Radiotherapy, could save patients many weeks of post-operation radiotherapy that can include 20 or 30 visits to hospital. It also reduces damage to organs such as the heart, lung and oesophagus from radiation exposure. Although this new technique was applied to women with a similar type of breast cancer, researchers were excited by the findings.

Hopefully before the end of 2010, there will be more great news for cancer patients. Stay tuned.

New Age Diseases in our Modern World

I have always felt that our great grandparents and people of their generation were more robust and had healthier lifestyles. They ate simple food, worked longer hours and hardly complained.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where we are faced with modern day conveniences and high tech devices such as smart mobile phones, online shopping, microwave oven, speedy transportation and fast food.

But with all these technological advances and conveniences are we healthier, happier and live longer than our ancestors?

One thing is certain; we are now exposed to an environment which our forefathers were not. The air that we breathe, the earth where we grow our vegetables and fruits and our water resources are now polluted with chemicals.

Our foods are added with harmful synthetic hormones, antibiotics and addictives. When our bodies break down and we become sick, we are fed with drugs and more chemicals.

This modern day stress, unhealthy lifestyles, poor eating habits and a hostile environment have created illnesses that were uncommon in the past.

Cancer, diabetes, asthma, anxiety and depressive disorders, and deep vein thrombosis are just some of the so-called “New Age Diseases” in our modern world.

As we become more affluent, we adopt a Western diet that is high in fat,  carbohydrates, red meat, processed foods and low in fibre. This eating habit has contributed to a rise in colorectal cancer.

Our colon is designed to collect toxic waste and then discharge it. When it is clogged with too much of harmful chemicals and acidic content and insufficient fibre, many things can happen. This includes irregular bowel movements, irritable bowel syndrome, appendicitis, and even colon cancer. In serious cases, it may affect the liver and kidneys.

An unhealthy diet and a stressful lifestyle with little time to exercise are a perfect formula for obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Obese people are also prone to fatty liver disease which is growing at an alarming rate. This happens when the liver accumulate fat causing inflammation and other liver diseases, such as cancer.

Office workers are spending long hours in front of computers and other digital devices which are getting smaller in footprint. This has led to an increase in aches, pains and sprains of the neck, back, knee and hand joints. In some cases varicose veins may develop. Women who wear high heel shoes or are pregnant and spend long periods of time sitting still or standing are more likely to develop varicose veins.

People who suffer from varicose veins are also at risk of getting deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein and stays there. Several cases of people on long-haul flights have been reported to have died from DVT. With more people travelling by air for work and leisure, DVT is becoming a new age disease.

As our world become more urbanised, our air quality deteriorates and respiratory diseases become more common. In some Asian countries, farmers regularly burn large tract of land to clear them for vegetation. The air pollutants resulted from the burning spread to neighbouring countries, and increasing incidents of respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

With our hectic and pressurised lifestyle, we neglect our physical and mental health. The recent financial crash has also created a feeling of powerlessness. These have contributed to more people having depressive disorders. People suffering from these disorders have low mood and energy levels, cannot sleep well, no appetite, cannot focus and unable to enjoy life.

So how do we get out of this predicament and start to enjoy healthy living?

Find out in my next article.

Sugar in the diet can lead to acne



The claim:

Sugar in the diet can lead to acne


The facts:

The correlation between acne and sugar has long been discussed, disputed and dismissed. The food and drinks that we consume everyday contain different levels of sugar. Consuming sugar in large amount can reduce your immunity and increase your insulin production leading to hormonal imbalance. This imbalance increase the production of sebum and cause acne.

Recent studies have indicated that what really matter may not be the sugar but a food’s glycemic index, which is the speed and extent it raises blood glucose levels.
When we consume food with high glycemic index, it raises glucose levels rapidly and forcing the body to release a large amount of insulin and other hormones. Scientists believe that this occurrence stimulate oil production and cause inflammation of the skin.

To test this theory, scientists recruited 50 men and boys aged 15 to 25, all of them with acne, and monitored their progress for 12 weeks.
Some subjects were given only diet that included high-glycemic foods like sweetened cereals, muffins, pasta and white bread. The rest were given food with low glycemic index and high in protein, like fish, wholegrain breads and fruits.

At the end of the study, which was published in 2007, the subjects on the low-glycemic diet had far greater reductions in skin lesions and other symptoms of acne than the control group. They also showed a decrease in their levels of free, circulating androgens, the male hormones known to cause acne, suggesting that hormones played a role.

Though more studies and research are needed to confirm this,
Other researches have found similar correlation between high-glycemic food and acne, but scientists generally agree that more studies are needed.


The bottom line:

There is some evidence that foods high in sugar can worsen acne.

Diabetes – tips to prevent it

As Featured On EzineArticles

There is new evidence to suggest that drinking coffee and tea can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to a study by the Archives Of Internal Medicine, high intakes of decaffeinated coffee and tea are associated with reduced risk of diabetes.

BBC Health reported that researchers have conducted 18 separate studies involving nearly 500,000 people. The analysis revealed that people who drink three or four cups of coffee or tea a day cut their risk by a fifth or more.

Consuming the same amount of decaffeinated coffee daily has the effect of lowering the risk by one third.

According to Rachel Huxley, a lead researcher at the University of Sydney, Australia, caffeine may not be the only link. Other compounds found in coffee and tea, including magnesium and antioxidants may be involved.

Despite this evidence, researchers have cautioned people suffering from type 2 diabetes to follow the basic rules of regular exercises and not to be over-weight.

So if you are diabetic but not a coffee or tea drinker, you may like to include these beverages as part of your breakfast fare.

Breakfast is important for people with diabetes as they will not have low blood sugar levels later in the morning. This will prevent them from overeating at lunch which will increase their sugar levels. An example of an ideal breakfast for diabetics would be one that comprises wholegrain carbohydrates like oats or wholewheat toast with egg whites or cottage cheese.

Avoid taking large meals and spread your calories intake throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels at optimal levels. Instead of two large meals, you may want to eat five or six smaller meals like half a sandwich, an apple or orange. Eat more oily fish and nuts, and less meat and diary products. Consume salt, oil and spices moderately. Use honey in place of honey.

Diabetics have high blood glucose which facilitate germs and bacteria to grow in their mouth. Practising good dental care will help you to prevent teeth and gum problems. I have cultivated a good habit brushing or at least rinsing my mouth after every meal or drink. It is not always possible to brush your teeth after meal taken outside your house, but at least rinse your mouth.

Drink enough water, at least 8 glasses a day and get enough sleep. You need to rest so your body can rejuvenate.

If you have any tips to help prevent diabetes, please share it with us.