A Prick a Day Won't Keep Your Blood Sugar Away


When it comes to wreaking havoc on people’s bodies, diabetes isn’t picky, wreaking havoc upon people’s hearts, brains, eyes, kidneys, and peripheral nerves. To forestall such damage, many people with diabetes withstand another kind of bodily harm—they prick blood from their fingers each day to test their blood sugar. For many people with Type 2 diabetes, also called adult onset diabetes, those daily prickings are probably unnecessary. If you have Type 2 diabetes, it’s a good time to ask your doctor whether you can forgo those painful prickings.
In diabetes, people’s bodies lose the ability to tightly control the level of glucose circulating in their bloodstream. (Glucose is sometimes called “blood sugar,” although it is only a cousin of table sugar, sucrose.) When glucose levels rise in the bloodstream, the body normally sends out a cascade of chemicals, like insulin, to corral the molecule: to pull it out of the bloodstream and force it into other tissues. People with Type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile onset diabetes, suffer damage to the cells in their pancreas that secrete insulin. As a result, their glucose levels rise dramatically in response to a meal. Without treatment, many of these patients will suffer severe illnesses or even die from high blood glucose. People with Type 1 diabetes usually need to take insulin, and while closely monitoring their blood sugar adjust their insulin dosages.
People with Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, usually have functioning pancreases, and without treatment, don’t usually experience life-threateningly high glucose levels after dinner. Instead, their ability to control blood glucose levels has deteriorated, usually because of chronic overweight or obesity, causing their glucose levels to rise more than normal after meals, and stay high for an abnormally long amount of time.
In order to help patients with Type 2 diabetes, physicians have long urged them to check their blood sugar at least once a day, to monitor their glucose levels. When I was trained, I was taught to have people check multiple times a day, so I could show them how to adjust their medications to more tightly control their blood sugar. If a patient had lots of high readings in the afternoon, for example, I might suggest that they increase their morning insulin.
(To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)

Obesity Nation!

Here is a picture, courtesy of the Financial Times, showing obesity rates among OECD nations. Only 5% of people living in Korea and Japan qualify as obese. Yet obesity rates are drastically higher in the United States; if someone’s in American, there is practically a 4 in 10 chance they are obese.

Not something to be proud of.

Got a Big Belly? (Why Big Sugar Is to Blame)

Growing up Republican, I have long believed in personal responsibility. In junior high school, when I observed close relatives who struggled with obesity, I vowed to never let myself get out of shape. (“Junior high” is what we called middle school back in the day.) When hip surgery gone wrong dramatically reduced my level of physical activity two and a half years ago, I cut back on what I ate to keep from gaining weight. In fact, I believe that much of our nation’s obesity epidemic comes down to personal responsibility—if people ate less and exercised more, we’d be a healthier nation.

But there is another culprit who deserves blame for American obesity—the sugar industry, which, for decades, bamboozled the American public about the dangers of its product .

My ire at big sugar was stoked by a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzing correspondence from the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) in the 1960s and 70s. In the late 50s, the sugar industry recognized that people’s concerns about the connections between cholesterol and heart disease provided them with an opportunity to tout the “no fat” benefits of sugar. By 1962, however, the industry recognized that high sugar intake could increase cholesterol levels, too.
(To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)

Losing weight is hard. And keeping it off once you’ve lost it–that’s probably even harder. Just ask Oprah.
So maybe those of us who are overweight or obese should simply focus on not gaining more weight than we’ve already gained. Surely that’s easier. Right?
Well, not long ago a group of researchers ran a study testing several ways to keep overweight people from becoming obese. They recruited adults, less than 35 years of age, who were either overweight or teetering on becoming overweight. The goal was to keep them from gaining more weight. In an effort to achieve that goal, they tested a range of interventions:
First, there was the control group. The researchers basically left this group alone, to see how much weight they would gain.
Next was the small changes group. They received two interventions:

Finally, there was the large changes group, which in addition to these first two interventions also received a third nudge–they were persuaded that in order to avoid long-term weight gain, they should first attempt to lose a few pounds.
(To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)

Behavioral Science of Eating (in One Picture!)

The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research (yes, there is such a thing!) had an outstanding issue dedicated to eating behavior recently. Here is a picture from that issue worth sharing:
Behavioral Science Of Eating

Death By Salad: Two Reasons 'Healthy' Food Could Make You Fat

In an effort to lose weight, you pass on the steak sizzler at your favorite family restaurant and settle, instead, for a healthy salad. But you might be in for a dieting double whammy. First off, the salad probably has more calories than you realize. For example, Applebee’s Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad packs a whopping 800 calories (a full 170 calories more than a Whopper). When you order that salad thinking you’re cutting calories, you’re wrong.
As if underestimating calories wasn’t bad enough, there’s a second problem with that salad–your body is about to play a sinister trick on you. As you engorge on all 800 calories of the salad, your brain, convinced the salad is healthy, convinces your stomach that it is not full. When people believe food is healthy, they experience that food as being less filling .
Not convinced? Consider this: A team of researchers gave college students a cookie to eat, telling half of them the cookie was “healthy” with “high levels of proteins, fibers and vitamins” and telling the other half it was “unhealthy” with “high levels of sugars, fats and carbohydrates.” Immediately after eating the cookie, and 45 minutes later, the researchers asked people how hungry they were. They found out that people who ate what they thought was a “healthy cookie” were hungrier.
(To read the rest of this post, please visit Forbes.)

A Surprising Way to Stop Eating so Many Brownies

I know why I sometimes eat too many brownies. They taste great! The same goes, of course, for a whole slew of desserts–I love me my strawberry rhubarb pie, and I never say no to a ginger snap. And while a touch of dessert is often a fine way to top off dinner, many of us get in trouble when we gorge on desserts.
So how can we get a taste of dessert without overindulging? This might sound weird, but try eating in front of a mirror–it will make junk food taste less delicious.
Bear with me while I explain the science behind this weird mirror research, and then show how that the finding is relevant whether or not you plan to actually eat in front of a mirror.
Normally, we think of how food tastes as being an objective phenomenon. Our taste buds tell us whether food is salty or sweet, tart or bland. But behavioral science has shown that our taste perceptions are influenced by a slew of unconscious factors. Give kids apples from a brown paper bag–meh. From a McDonald’s brown paper bag–yummy! Put green (tasteless) food coloring in a glass of orange juice–yuk! Tell someone a cracker is healthy–yawn. Describe the same cracker as unhealthy–delish!
(To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)

Chew on This: Willpower Predicts How Quickly You Respond to the Taste of Food

Taste versus health: That’s a trade-off we are often faced with when deciding what to eat. Some foods are bad for our health but happen to taste quite good. All of us have limited willpower, and when we are exhausted those unhealthy foods become harder to resist. But did you know that when willpower is depleted, the relative speed with which our brains process information on taste versus healthiness changes?

When you run out of self-control, the part of your brain that tells you to eat healthily lags behind the part telling you to eat junk food.

This conclusion follows from research using what behavioral scientists call a mouse lab – not a facility where researchers experiment on mice but, instead, a lab where people respond to computer-based surveys and the researchers track the movement of the mouse controlling the computer cursor. In a study led by Nicolette Sullivan from Caltech (safety school!), researchers placed participants in front of computer screens and gave them pictures of two foods, asking them which one they would most like to eat. Instead of looking only at which food people eventually chose, they looked at the wandering of the cursor – a participant might first start directing the cursor towards the donut before swerving it in the direction of the salad. That pattern would suggest that the person’s early preferences were for the donut, but were later overridden by other considerations.

Here’s what they found.

(To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)

How to Keep Santa from Making Our Kids Fat –Three Ways to Reduce Childhood Obesity

The holidays are upon us. It’s a time to celebrate with loved ones, maybe even enjoy a well-earned vacation. But it is also a time that many of us gain weight, with children developing eating habits that could set them on a trajectory towards being overweight or obese.

It is really crucial to help our children avoid gaining too much weight. Because once people become obese, a myriad of biologic factors conspire against their efforts to lose weight. Consider a study that came out last year showing what happened to contestants on the Biggest Loser – most of whom gained back most of the weight they lost while participating on the television show. Or look at the difficulty even wealthy people with great willpower have sustaining weight loss, people like Mike Huckabee and Oprah Winfrey.

That’s why the key to combating America’s obesity problem is to prevent children from developing obesity.

But how can we keep our children from becoming obese? All of us with children can do our best to serve our kids healthy, appropriately portioned meals, while encouraging them to be physically active. But what about us as a society – what can we do? What policies can we embrace that will reduce the rate of childhood obesity?

(To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)