Diabetes

Could artificial sweeteners be bad for your brain?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

While diet soda and other types of artificially sweetened drinks may not have calories, research is suggesting that those who drink them regularly may be at higher risk for stroke or dementia.

What is prediabetes and why does it matter?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Considering the range and severity of health problems caused by diabetes, the focus on treating prediabetes in order to prevent it from becoming diabetes is sensible, and a large study found that it is possible. A healthy diet and adequate physical activity can help most people side step this condition. For some, medication is also necessary.

The data are in: Eat right, reduce your risk of diabetes

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Data from surveys of 200,000 people spanning two decades add support to the belief that eating a diet made up largely of plant-based foods is likely to lower a person’s risk of developing diabetes.

There’s no sugar-coating it: All calories are not created equal

Celia Smoak Spell
Celia Smoak Spell, Assistant Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The view that calories are calories regardless of their source has been shown to be outdated. Foods with a low glycemic index are better because they tend to raise blood sugar more slowly, and they are also more likely to be healthier foods overall. By choosing the low-glycemic foods and thus the minimally processed foods, people can lose more weight, feel fuller longer, and remain healthier.

Sepsis: When infection overwhelms

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

The dangers of sepsis are more pronounced for certain parts of the population, and more likely to be caused by certain types of infections, like pneumonia. It’s vital that patients and those close to them be aware of the signs of sepsis and get immediate medical attention if it is suspected.

Sugar: Its many disguises

Uma Naidoo, MD
Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor

Excess sugar in the diet can cause a whole host of health problems, both physical and mental. If you’re concerned about cutting down on sugar, you might think you’re covered if you skip the soda and pastries. But there are plenty of hidden and added sugars lurking in all kinds of foods — even those traditionally considered “healthy.” Here, we’ve given you some tips on what to watch out for.

Diabetes drug pioglitazone could get personal: Neither panacea, nor peril

Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH
Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Doctors are often hesitant to prescribe newer drugs. We simply can’t know everything about them until the experiences of early adopters tell us what they’re really like. Such is the case with thiazolidinediones. Some of the more recent diabetes drugs fell out of favor, but a new study suggests that may be helpful for very specific types of patients.

Tight blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes linked to fewer heart attacks and strokes

Urmila Parlikar
Urmila Parlikar, Senior Content Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Diabetes damages every part of the body, from the brain to the feet. High blood sugar, the hallmark of diabetes, wreaks havoc on blood vessels. It makes sense that keeping blood sugar under control should prevent diabetes-related damage — but how low to push blood sugar is an open question. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) provides reassuring evidence that so-called tight blood sugar control is good for the heart and circulatory system. A 10-year follow-up of the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial showed that participants who aimed for tight blood sugar control had lower blood sugar and fewer heart attacks and strokes than participants whose blood sugar was allowed to float a bit higher. Although tight blood sugar control can help prevent diabetes-related damage, it can have drawbacks such as bouts of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can be dangerous. Current guidelines from the American Diabetes Association recommend tight blood sugar control, but also recognize there’s no one-size-fits-all rule.

People with type 1 diabetes are living longer

Howard LeWine, M.D.
Howard LeWine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications

Ninety years ago, type 1 diabetes was a death sentence: half of people who developed it died within two years; more than 90% were dead within five years. Thanks to the introduction of insulin therapy in 1922, and numerous advances since then, many people with type 1 diabetes now live into their 50s and beyond. But survival in this group still falls short of that among people without diabetes. A Scottish study published this week in JAMA shows that at the age of 20, individuals with type 1 diabetes on average lived 12 fewer years than 20-year-olds without it. A second study in the same issue of JAMA showed that people with type 1 diabetes with better blood sugar control lived longer than those with poorer blood sugar control.

Vitamin D testing not recommended for most people

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Over the past decade, a barrage of reports linking low vitamin D levels to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other ills led many doctors to routinely test vitamin D levels in their healthy patients. But there is no good reason to do that, according to a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine. The task force concluded that it isn’t helpful for most people to know their vitamin D level, and that even if you have a “low” vitamin D level there’s little evidence that taking a vitamin D supplement will do most people any good.