Monday, January 4, 2010

Small Changes Lead to Big Changes in Preventing Diabetes

Tim and Paul Daly, identical twins. One has diabetes, one does not.

Here's an inspirational story about beating diabetes. Tim and Paul Daly are identical twins who were inseparable up through young adulthood - they even joined the Army together. Later they took different paths, and while Tim kept playing basketball every week with friends on Tuesday night, his brother didn't do any exercise at all.

In 1996 Paul was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. His identical twin Tim was pre-diabetic. Then...

Tim volunteered to take part in a huge national research study aimed at determining exactly what it takes to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Like him, all of the 3,234 volunteers in the study were at high risk of developing the disease. The volunteers were broken down into three groups.

Tim was randomly assigned to the "lifestyle intervention" group. He received intensive counseling from a dietitian and motivational coach who helped him develop a plan to eat less and exercise more.

A second group of participants took a diabetes medicine called Metformin twice a day. These volunteers received information about diet and exercise, but they didn't get motivational counseling. A third group received placebo pills instead of Metformin.

Researchers wanted to know which intervention would work best to prevent diabetes and all of the complications that can develop as a result: loss of vision, kidney failure, amputations and a substantial increase in risk of heart disease and stroke.

As it turns out, the study found lifestyle changes to be twice as affective as the medicine.

Twice as effective!! Keep that in mind when you read the possible side effects of Metformin:

Metformin may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe, do not go away, go away and come back, or do not begin for some time after you begin taking metformin:
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • stomach pain
  • gas
  • constipation
  • unpleasant metallic taste in mouth
  • heartburn
  • headache
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • flushing of the skin
  • nail changes
  • muscle pain

Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are uncommon, but if you experience any of them or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately:
  • chest pain
  • rash

Some female laboratory animals given high doses of metformin developed non-cancerous polyps (abnormal growths of tissue) in the uterus (womb). It is not known if metformin increases the risk of polyps in humans. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking this medication.

Metformin may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

Just more evidence that exercise is good for nearly everything. The audio version of this story, available for free on the NPR website, has more detail than the printed version.

Preventing Diabetes: Small Changes Have Big Payoff by Allison Aubrey
Diabetes Prevention Program Study Repository
Medline Plus: Metformin

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