Monday, December 03, 2007

No Dumb Diabetes Research Awards for 2007

In the past around this time of year, I had people vote for the "Dumbest Diabetes Research of the Year". I will not be doing that in 2007, in part, because I did not do much as far as tracking the mindless studies done in the name of diabetes research this year. I must apologize if anyone was hoping to vote, but I would have to spend a lot of time sifting through medical journals, and at this time of year, that really isn't my priority right now. But I'd love to collect your nominations!

As you may recall, last year, the winning study was an article entitled "Short legs related to excess weight and diabetes" in which researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 7,424 adults aged 40–74 years, from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and concluded that being short - specifically having short legs and a low leg length-to-height ratio - was linked to an increased type 2 diabetes and obesity risk in middle age. They recommended "early intervention" to improve childhood nutrition in diabetes prevention. While this was a meta analysis, the study suggested that the parents are to blame for adults getting type 2 diabetes, which may be a flawed conclusion. Other studies examined, if you can believe it, the effect of chili consumption on glycemic control. Gimme a break!

Each year, including 2007, millions of dollars are indeed wasted on such mindless research, rather than investigating flaws in current treatments, or looking at issues that are important to patients. As my post last week noted, most studies undertaken ignore everything but glycemic control, and an article published in The Lancet calls into question whether the medical profession needs to re-examine the issues that clinical trials actually investigate, because there is more to managing diabetes than simply controlling blood sugars, its just that researchers seem blinded to that fact.

More troubling is the not-so-subtle implication that results from a non-scientific sample are applicable to all patients with diabetes, which is not only inappropriate, but helps perpetuate myths about diabetes to an already ignorant population.

Last week, Reuters did a story with a headline declaring that people with diabetes routinely make unsafe driving decisions, specifically claiming that patients drive automobiles while their blood glucose levels are hypoglycemic.

Unfortunately, the study, which was done in the Netherlands, was conducted on just 65 people, and the number of people who behaved in the risky manner was a mere 21 people, which is hardly sufficient to declare millions of people worldwide (including many with type 2 who are less prone to hypoglycemia because they have fully functional counterregulatory systems, which are impaired in people with type 1) as routinely engaging in unsafe behavior. Yet the headlines suggest guilt by association. Lilly's Sidney Taurel may gripe about the media not being objective in its coverage, and this may not be exactly what he had in mind, but there is some truth to that assertion.

Regardless, I would encourage everyone to read the details before succumbing to the media's declarations that damn the entire Diabetes OC Community, whether it is engaging in risky driving behavior, or of having a "lifestyle" disease caused, according to the media's description, by sloth.

Mr. Taurel is right that the media needs to do better, but not just to benefit Eli Lilly and Company shareholders, but to ensure people are not given sound bytes of mis-information about diabetes.


Jenny said...

The single most stupid and DAMAGING study published this year was the one that claimed that testing blood sugar did not lead to improved A1cs in people with Type 2 diabetes. Done in Autralia, this "Freemantle Study" published in Diabetllogia is being used to justify NOT giving people with Type 2 diabetes test strips.
Does self-monitoring of blood glucose mprove outcome in type 2 diabetes? The Fremantle Diabetes Study

If I recall correctly, this was the study where the researchers carefully selected only patients who were already not testing blood sugar as participants--guaranteeing an uneducated unmotivated population.

Then they told them to test a few times a week. The did not instruct them how to lower blood sugars. In fact, the researchers come from a community that still recommends a low fat high carb diet to people with diabetes.

Result: the research found that people with Type 2 diabetes testing their blood sugar a few times a week without any clue as to what raises blood sugar, will not improve their A1cs.

And as a result, thousands of motivated patients who DO test properly and do lower carbs when their blood sugar is too high are going to being denied strips by insurers and public health organizations.


Anonymous said...

How about the "Halle Berry goes off insulin and goes from Type 1 diabetes to Type 2 diabetes" story of a few weeks agol I couldn't believe my eyes when I read her little blurb to the press. I realize that she's an entertainer, not a rocket scientist, but geeeeezzz... talk about idiotic. The fury from type 1 diabetics and the parents of Type 1 diabetics at this little tidbit of misinformation was a thing to behold - let the trashing of another misinformed and big-mouthed celebrity begin! i wonder - does success in Hollywood require that half of your brain cells be sucked out via the ear? Seems like it to me. but I guess now that Halle is squarely in the Type 2 camp, all we Type 1's have left are Mary Tyler Moore, Bret Michaels and that nice kid from American Idol.