It seems like diabetes is everywhere. About 29 million Americans have it, and there are probably at least 8 million more who haven’t been diagnosed and are unaware of their condition. Furthermore, roughly one of out three adults has pre-diabetes and 9 out of 10 of them don’t know it, either. It’s an endocrinological mess.
Now it’s long been known that testosterone plays a role in type 2 diabetes (the type that’s largely preventable), but the discovery that the relationship is a two-way street is more recent. Yes, people with diabetes often have low testosterone levels, but it’s also true that having low testosterone can promote conditions that can lead to diabetes, too.
More troubling, though, is recent research that shows low testosterone levels put men with type 2 diabetes at a significantly higher risk of death, which might lead you to wonder whether testosterone replacement therapy can reverse the risk of death in diabetics with low testosterone.
The research says yes.
The details of scientific studies usually make most people want to jump in front of a bus, but we’ll be short and concise. Researchers in England conducted a 6-year study with 587 men with type 2 diabetes. They divided them into 3 groups:
- One group was comprised of men with normal levels of testosterone.
- One group was comprised of men with low levels of testosterone that weren’t getting testosterone replacement.
- One group was comprised of men with low testosterone who had been receiving testosterone replacement therapy for two or more years.
Only 31 of 338 men in the normal testosterone, untreated group died during the six-year study.
Meanwhile, 36 of 182 men with low testosterone (untreated) died.
But only 5 of 58 diabetic men who were treated for low testosterone died.
That means the death rate in the low testosterone group was 20 percent while the death rate in the group with normal testosterone was 9 percent. However, the diabetics with low testosterone who had been receiving testosterone replacement for at least two years had a death rate of 8.6%, the lowest of the three groups.
This prompted the lead scientist in the study, Professor Hugh Jones of Barnsley Hospital and University of Sheffield in England to exclaim, “This is potentially a very exciting finding. Whilst we have shown that low testosterone levels can put diabetic men at greater risk of dying, we have also demonstrated for the first time the potential benefit that testosterone replacement therapy holds for this group of patients.”
Clearly, the benefits of testosterone replacement therapy in preventing diabetes, treating diabetes, and preventing diabetes-related death are significant, but it’s definitely not the only way to prevent or treat the disease. There are also, of course, several dietary and lifestyle changes that can really make a big impact on the disease.
Simple Changes Anyone Can Make
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where your pancreas doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin, and what insulin it does make doesn’t work as efficiently as it should. Additionally, the liver of diabetics produces too much sugar and when too much of it builds up in the blood, it can lead to serious health problems (including the aforementioned death).
Luckily, though, type 2 diabetes is a disease that can almost always be controlled through a combination of exercise, diet, and supplements or drugs.
Okay, everybody knows that diabetics should exercise. For one thing, you “dispose” of excess sugar when you get the body’s metabolic machinery going. Additionally, any muscle you gain from exercising aids the body by giving sugar another place to go (as opposed to fat storage). Muscle, you see, requires sugar for it to work.
So, given what we just said, weight training is an excellent way to combat type 2 diabetes, but some people aren’t cut out for hoisting iron. That’s okay, because practically any exercise can be effective in lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity.
One “easy” method you might want to try is “wogging,” which is a combination of running and walking. You simply run for as long a distance as you feel comfortable (whether that be a mile or 50 yards) and then start walking. Alternately, you could just walk and vary the speed at which you do so. Research has found that simply changing the pace burns 20 percent more calories.
The main enemy of the diabetic is dietary sugar, or carbohydrate. One can go a long way in fighting diabetes by just cutting down on how many carbs are eaten throughout the day. However, carbs are sometimes unavoidable, but there are several little “tricks” you can use to lessen their effect:
- Use vinegar as a salad dressing as it lessens the glucose and insulin response from a meal, in addition to raising insulin sensitivity in general. Regular use of vinegar can even lead to a 2-pound weight loss over a 4-week period. Also, think about taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed as that can lower morning blood sugar by 4 to 6 percent.
- Take one teaspoon of psyllium (commonly available as Metamucil) two or three times a day as it’s been shown to lower blood sugar by 11 percent.
- Use fish oil, lots of it. Fish oil not only rivals the effects of exercise on blood sugar, but when combined with exercise, it has a synergistic effect on the lowering of blood sugar.
Diabetics have long used a drug called Metformin, aka Glucophage, to combat their disease. The drug works by helping restore your body’s proper response to insulin, in addition to reducing the amount of sugar made by the liver.
Metformin is an interesting drug in that it’s also touted as the first true longevity drug. It seems that long-time users don’t develop cancer nearly as often as non-users, and those that do develop it have much better long-term prognoses.
So why would a blood-sugar lowering drug protect against cancer? One reason is that it reduces obesity, which is a risk factor for more than a dozen cancers. (Generally, there’s a 59% increase in the incidence of cancer for every 5-unit increase in body mass index, or BMI.)
Secondly, Metformin increases the production of a chemical that regulates cell growth and replication. It can literally tell cells to stop drawing energy. Once this chemical is activated, cancer cells end up starving themselves because the energy lifeline’s been cut.
There’s No Excuse
To be blunt, there really isn’t a good reason for so many Americans to suffer from type 2 diabetes, not with all the modern strategies and treatments available. If you suffer from the disease, are pre-diabetic, or think you might be pre-diabetic, come in and see an Optimal Health Medical Group physician and let us help you get on the right hormonal track, either through dietary strategies, pharmaceutical intervention, or testosterone replacement therapy.