Wednesday, August 14, 2013


One of the unanswered questions that still haunts humanity is whether high consumption of sugar can contribute to diabetic condition or intolerance of sugar is an aftermath of diabetes! It is well known that diabetes disease presents one with a condition where adequate insulin secretion becomes a casualty due to some  changes in the working of pancreatic gland or the cells develop insulin insensitivity (resistance) because of over weight and other afflictions. Many people develop diabetes after the age of 45 years manly because of unhealthy food eating habits and as age progresses the severity of the  disease increases. India is considered the diabetic capital of the world with highest recorded cases of diabetics living in the country. Out of 280 million diabetics living in different countries, more than 40 million are in India. By 2030 it is predicted that one in every five diabetic persons in the world would be an Indian! A dubious distinction indeed!

The most dreaded two words that can spell potential threat to life are "Metabolic Syndrome" that develops slowly without the victims not even being aware of it. Many diabetics are not diagnosed properly and with treatment being delayed the condition becomes worse with passage of time. It is universally acknowledged that a glucose level of 126 mg per deciliter in the blood after a twelve hour fasting period or 200 mg per deciliter in two hours after ingestion of 75 gm of glucose or a value of 6.5 or more for the glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) can confirm diabetes in a person. Metabolic syndrome is manifested by a cluster of factors involving abnormal fats (Dyslipidemia), high blood pressure, obesity and abnormal glucose levels in the blood, The symptoms include polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirstiness) and polyphagia (increased hunger). With so much information in the public domain, why so many people fail to check their health regularly for diabetes cannot be easily understood. Either people do not visit their family doctors regularly or doctors' advice is ignored without realizing the grave consequences of serious diabetic condition that can eventually end up by those affected becoming blind or their legs amputated due to gangrene.  

Of all the reasons cited as critical for developing diabetes, the most logical one is lack of exercise which can make pancreas somewhat dysfunctional and consequently cause adverse impact on insulin production. Modern society seems to be ignoring this golden truth and continue to lead sedentary type of lives exacerbating the situation and invite diabetes to take hold of their life. A pertinent question which is often posed relates to the relatively diabetes free society during olden days of our ancestors though they consumed enormous amounts of sugar daily. Look at the range of sweetmeats made and consumed in India and practically every product has sugar beyond 40%! Probably the secret lies in the rigorous working style of people hundred years ago when comfort and leisure were practically unknown and more the physical work out less is the chance for diseases like diabetics to develop. To day with WiFi, broadband, laptops, PCs, Notebooks, iPads and a variety of Gizmos taking hold of the lives of people, there is very little time available for real physical exertion regularly. Naturally the society cannot afford to complain but to suffer the consequences.

What about the role of food technology in this sordid transformation of a vibrant society of yesteryear into a zombie like population, controlled more by electronic, electrical and mechanical gadgets rather than the will power and muscle power of man? Discovery of many technologies like husking, debranning, degerming, polishing, fine grinding, juice extraction and declouding, precooking and packing, extrusion cooking, bread making with refined flours etc seem to have made the human digestion system almost redundant with the result that the pace and efficiency with which sugar is absorbed by the blood increase very significantly resulting in rapid blood sugar build up, not considered healthy. These innovations by food technologists deplete almost every desirable nutrient present in natural food, most critical being the dietary fiber. For example the Indian traditional bread made from whole grains like wheat, jowar and other grains is far superior to the refined flour based western bread loaves from nutritional angle. There are hundreds of such examples where man's superior intelligence has destroyed good foods and created a whole panorama of junk foods with empty calories! 

It is true that there are many modern day medicines to deal with diabetes and diabetics live long if the disease is managed with right medicine, exercise and diet control. Insulin injection has been simplified and delivery mechanism improved beyond recognition. There are many foods supposed to have hypoglycemic effect including bitter gourd, fenugreek and a host of others but how far these can be harnessed into a diet regime and whether Allopathic medicines can altogether be avoided is a question begging for an answer. Similarly alternate medicinal systems like Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy and others also have their own treatment regimes claimed to be effective but very few people rely on these alternatives falling back on Allopathic medicines which brings quick results.   

Against such a background comes the news that a radically new delivery system for insulin has been developed that could be very promising and easy to manage. Scientists claim to be pursuing a new line of research to tap the potential of nano technology to deliver insulin into the body for release only when the blood glucose crosses a certain threshold. This enables the body to maintain normal blood sugar levels for more than a week, at least in animal-based laboratory tests. This so called 'Smart" system is designed to do away with the current cumbersome procedure involving monitoring of the blood sugar level several times a day to decide on the number of units of insulin to be injected. According to these scientists, after testing this technology in mice it was confirmed that just one injection was able to maintain blood sugar levels in the normal range for up to 10 days.  The injectable nano-network is composed of a mixture containing nano particles with a solid core of insulin, modified dextran and glucose oxidase enzymes.  When the enzymes are exposed to high glucose levels they effectively convert glucose into gluconic acid, which breaks down the modified dextran and releases the insulin. The insulin then brings the glucose levels under control. The gluconic acid and dextran are fully biocompatible and dissolve in the body.  Each of these nanoparticle cores is given either a positively charged or negatively charged biocompatible coating.  The positively charged coatings are made of chitosan extracted from shrimp shells, while the negatively charged coatings are made of alginate derived from seaweed. 

If these claims are true, is the day far off when man can indulge in eating all types of foods to his heart's content and still avoid the harsh repercussions that follow binge eating under normal conditions? What should be kept in mind is that such over eating may not exacerbate the diabetes but it can definitely lead to over weight and obesity and the consequences there of. Recent revelations by scientists at Leeds University that hyperglycemia can, in the long term, adversely affect the cognitive behavior in humans is indeed alarming. Ideally moderate eating, reasonable exercise and cutting down on sugar, fat and salt may the best way to lead a healthy life and man is better of avoiding regular intake of medicines, if possible, for dealing with some of the life style disorders that commonly afflict him to day.


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