The Risk Factor

Nearly $1 out of every $7 spent on health care in the United States is spent on diabetes. Now 4,000 people are now taking part in the largest diabetes prevention study ever done.

They do not have diabetes yet, but they have pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, and most experts feel it comes just before Type II diabetes.

Fifteen million Americans have Type II diabetes, which is brought on by obesity. The six-year study will determine whether diet changes can prevent diabetes or if some participants can stay free of disease by taking one of two new drugs.

In Type II diabetes, it’s not that you don’t necessarily produce enough insulin, it’s that the insulin you produce doesn’t work properly. And these drugs that are being used, Metformin and Troglitazone, work at both the liver and the muscle to reduce the insulin resistance.

Preventing Type I diabetes, more serious than Type II, is trickier because the disease is caused by a breakdown of the immune system. The pancreas stops making insulin, forcing Type I diabetics to take insulin injections to stay alive.

Sandra, Type I Diabetic: “Everything changes, schedule wise, your eating habits, your diet, everything changes.”

Researchers are trying to boost the immune system of healthy, at-risk patients with oral insulin. It acts like a decoy, tricking antibodies into attacking the insulin in the pills instead of the insulin-making cells in the pancreas.

Samuel, Diabetes Center: “We believe we would prolong their own cell life, they would not have to take the insulin injections and hopefully someday we’ll be able to prevent it entirely.”

It’s too late to prevent Sandra’s diabetes. But it’s not too late to prevent it in her children. So she hopes that one day oral insulin will protect her family from the demands and uncertainties of diabetes.

Warning signs of diabetes include a family history of the disease, unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, lack of energy, vision problems and a weight problem.

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