True Blood: The Latest in Diabetes Research

The rate of type 2 diabetes is rising in all groups. But it’s especially common in older people, as more of our population ages and puts on weight. One plus side to this surge is the development of new innovative medications and devices that can make it easier to manage the chronic disease. For instance, check out the novel non-invasive ways to measure blood sugar that can take the place of the traditional – and tiresome – finger-pricking method. “Blood glucose testing devices are certainly getting better,” says Dr. Ian Blumer, a diabetes specialist in Ajax, Ont., and author of Diabetes for Canadians for Dummies.

Case in point: Google has created and is now testing a prototype contact lens that uses teeny-tiny electronics to continuously measure glucose in tears. Meanwhile, chemists at Mississippi State University are currently working on an “electronic nose” that can detect changes in blood sugar by sampling breath. And a company in Israel has developed an ear clip that uses thermal, ultrasound and electromagnetic measurements to check your blood sugar. The company plans to introduce the device to the European market sometime this year.

But Blumer notes that daily blood testing isn’t proven necessary for most people who don’t take insulin, and that accounts for two-thirds of the folks over 50 with diabetes. “The most important thing for them is better treatment,” he says. Blumer points to a class of medication called a GLP-1 analogue (your doc will know it as Victoza and Byetta). It mimics a natural hormone in the body that brings down blood sugar. A happy side benefit: the injections can help people lose weight. Health Canada has also just recently approved an SGLT2 inhibitor (Invokana), which compels the kidneys to flush glucose out of the body through urine.

But despite these advances, living well with diabetes still boils down to making a lifestyle change. People with Type 2 diabetes can vastly lower their risk of complications by improving their diet, getting exercise, losing weight and quitting smoking. “All the other drugs and gadgets are, by comparison value-added, or secondary, in nature,” Blumer says.

Zoomer magazine, Nov. 2014