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Diabetes Update: Coding

October 1, 2004

By David Mendosa

Girl with a Red Hat

My Favorite Vermeer

This newsletter keeps you up-to-date with new articles, Web pages, and books that I have written about diabetes.

  • I list and link most of these on my at Diabetes Directory and in the site’s menu.

  • From time to time Diabetes Update may also include links to other Web pages of special interest.

My recent contribution is:

  • Coding
    Nowadays codes can be awfully difficult or even impossible to crack. Fortunately, the codes that you have to enter on most blood glucose monitors are much easier. Still, we often miss the mark. What happens when you miscode your meter? And what meters don’t need to be coded? To find out the answers to these questions please read the article that I wrote for the October 2004 issue of Diabetes Health. It is now also on my site at


  • Niacin
    The American medical establishment continues to push the statin drugs as if it were the only game in town. It isn’t.

    The statins are indeed big business. Sales of these six drugs exceeded $15 billion last year, according to Two of the statins, Lipitor and Zocor, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively among all drugs sold in the United States last year, according to

    Many people would agree with that “Statin drugs should probably be in the water, like fluoride.” The only little problem is that “Statins break down muscle fiber in some patients, and in exceedingly rare cases, that causes kidney failure.”

    Not everyone suffers these unfortunate side effects, but I have read enough and talked to enough people to be sure that the excruciating pains I suffered when these drugs attacked my leg muscles were not all that rare.

    From talking with your doctor you might never know that there are many cholesterol-lowering alternatives to the statins. My article on Cholesterol originally reported on several of them. Later, I added an update on policosanol.

    Now, I have updated the article once again to consider niacin. This vitamin, when consumed in large doses, is perhaps even more of a miracle drug than the statins. The only problem is that the pharmaceutical companies can’t make any money on it.…Please see

  • Atkins Hates Me
    It’s about time that the Atkins people realized that in my article Net Carbs I had made a strong attack on their veracity. Seven months after I posted the article on my site, they got around to challenging one of my basic claims — that some of the sugar alcohols they say have a minimal blood glucose impact in fact have a considerable impact.

    The article now has an “Update” section giving the Atkins reply and my rebuttal. Perhaps more than most disagreements I think that you will find this argument worth reading.

Research Notes:

  • How Low Can You Go?
    There’s more good news about keeping your blood glucose levels low. The bad news is that even glucose levels previously considered to be normal as measured by your A1C increase your risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attacks, strokes, and artery disease.

    Two new studies published a few days ago in the Annals of Internal Medicine link blood glucose with the risk of heart disease. One of these studies found that whenever A1C levels went up one percent — like from 5.0 to 6.0, from 6.0 to 7.0 and so on — the risk of heart disease rose about 20 percent and the risk of death increased likewise.

    One of these articles reports on a study of more than 10,000 people in Norfolk, United Kingdom. The other was a meta-analysis of more than 9,000 people with diabetes.

    The results of these studies should sound a wake-up call for everyone, whether or not they have diabetes. The normal range for people who don’t have diabetes is 4.5 to 6.2, according to the UK Prospective Diabetes Study.

    The UKPDS results confirmed that high blood glucose is a major cause of the microvascular complications of diabetes like retinopathy and kidney disease. This study showed that better blood glucose control reduces the risk of major diabetic eye disease by 25 percent and early kidney damage by about 33 percent.

    But neither the UKPDS or the earlier Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), which studied people with type 1 diabetes, gave a definitive answer to the question of whether glucose control reduces the risk of heart disease.

    Now we know that it does. It was only when our levels go above 6.2 that we start getting complications, the UKPDS said. Now it looks like we need to shoot for even lower A1C levels.

    The ADA’s top medical expert once told me that the average American with diabetes probably has an A1c between 8.5 and 9. He went on to explain to me that the ADA did not push for levels below 7.0 because below that level you get more hypoglycemia, need to change medication, or have to make other changes in their lives.

    It is certainly true that such tight control does lead to more hypoglycemia. However, it is rare unless you are using insulin and one of the older sulfonylureas. And it now appears that making lifestyle changes and changing the drugs you use are more important than ever.

    My recently A1C of 6.2 indicates that at least in this one respect I am normal rather than a typical person with diabetes. But we know now that even normal isn’t good enough, so like almost everyone else I will have to redouble my efforts to reduce my blood glucose.

    You can read the abstracts of the two new studies online at and

  • ADA Statement on Diabetes
    The good new is that the American Diabetes Association has finally recognized the glycemic index and the glycemic load. The bad news is that this esteemed organization still recommends that our diets should be 45 to 65 percent carbohydrate.

    Without a subscription to Diabetes Care (or without paying $12 for the privilege of reading this one article) you can only read the abstract online for “Dietary Carbohydrate (Amount and Type) in the Prevention and Management of Diabetes: A statement by the American Diabetes Association.” Fortunately, Dr. Arturo Rolla posted the entire article from the September 2004 issue on his mailing list.

    The ADA statement even recognizes the crucial finding that implementing a low-glycemic index diet lowered A1C values by 0.43 percent when compared with a high-glycemic index diet (citing Professor Jennie Brand-Miller's meta-analysis, “Low-glycemic index diets in the management of diabetes,” in the August 2003 issue of Diabetes Care).

    Yet the ADA still dismisses the value of the glycemic index: “The type or source of carbohydrate has on postprandial glucose level has continued to be an area of debate,” the organization continues. That it is an area of debate is an understatement.

    Failing to distinguish between a low-glycemic and a low-carbohydrate diet, the ADA goes on to summarize its conclusions as follows:

    “Low-carbohydrate diets are not recommended in the management of diabetes. Although dietary carbohydrate is the major contributor to postprandial glucose concentration, it is an important source of energy, water-soluble vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Thus, in agreement with the National Academy of Sciences-Food and Nutrition Board, a recommended range of carbohydrate intake is 45 to 65 percent of total calories. In addition, because the brain and central nervous system have an absolute requirement for glucose as an energy source, restricting total carbohydrate to less than 130 g/day is not recommended.”

    A low-GI diet is certainly not necessarily a low-carbohydrate diet. Many high-carbohydrate foods are low glycemic.

    Take your pick. Personally, my head is persuaded that a low-GI diet makes a lot of sense. Yet my mouth does not always agree. I expect that this dichotomy represents is the very heart of the diet controversy now raging among those of us with diabetes.

  • Inhaled Insulin
    Insulin has saved millions of lives since Dr. Frederick Banting and Charles Best made the first a pancreatic extract in 1921. It is not only the most effective drug for diabetes but is also the least expensive.

    The problem with insulin is the “ouch factor.” Annual injections for flu shots are one thing. But insulin shots once or even more daily are another. People with type 1 diabetes don’t have a choice. But all too often those shots scare away those of us with type 2.

    Soon, however, taking your insulin may well be as unremarkable as taking a deep breath. Clinical trials are showing that a brand of inhaled insulin known as Exubera works as well as injected insulin for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

    There have long been concerns that Exubera could cause lung problems. But it looks like new studies confirm its safety. The companies involved, Aventis, Pfizer, and Nektar Therapeutics, plan to file a new drug application with the FDA sometime next year. And Lilly and Alkermes are also working on their own brands of inhaled insulin.

    For more, you can read the Pfizer press release summarizing results presented last month at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Munich, Germany. For me the most impressive finding was that study results showed that A1C levels decreased from 9.6 percent to 7.7 percent after two years for patients receiving Exubera, compared with 8.1 percent for patients in the control group.

Book Review:

Reflections on a Life with Diabetes

Many Reflections

  • Reflections On A Life With Diabetes
    The time seems to be ripe for books about the emotional aspects of diabetes. Last month I reviewed one of the first of this genre. It reflects the love of a mother for her daughter who has type 1 diabetes. This month the scene broadens.

    The title of the book, Reflections On A Life With Diabetes, is a misnomer, albeit clarified by the subtitle, a memoir in many voices. This book, compiled and edited by Diane Parker and Ruth Mark, includes contributions chronicling the lives of 47 contributors.

    The breadth of these contributions written in both prose and poetry is the book’s strength. At the same time the many voices dilute the intensity of the reading experience compared, for example, with the book reviewed here last month.

    This is still a powerful book. The contributors are either excellent writers or they have been extremely well edited or both. Read this and know that you are not alone.

    By a strange coincidence the title of this book, Reflections On A Life With Diabetes, is exactly the same as the subtitle of one of my least favorite books about diabetes, Sweet Invisible Body: Reflections on a Life With Diabetes. That book, by Lisa Roney, came out four years ago. The overwhelming impression that I retain about the earlier book is one of negativity. By contrast, I am left with a hopeful feeling after reading the current book.

    This new book, published this year by Publishing, is softbound with 285 pages. It lists for $14.95. You can buy it through, B&,, or by calling (877) 376-4955.

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I now send out Diabetes Update once a month. Previous issues are online:

  1. Diabetes Update Number 1: Diabetes Genes of December 10, 2000
  2. Diabetes Update Number 2: DiabetesWATCH of December 18, 2000
  3. Diabetes Update Number 3: Starlix of January 3, 2001
  4. Diabetes Update Number 4: Native Seeds/SEARCH, Tepary Beans of January 17, 2001
  5. Diabetes Update Number 5: Insulin Makes You Fat of January 31, 2001
  6. Diabetes Update Number 6: Available and Unavailable Carbohydrates of February 15, 2001
  7. Diabetes Update Number 7: Dates of March 1, 2001
  8. Diabetes Update Number 8: Quackwatch of March 15, 2001
  9. Diabetes Update Number 9: The Cost of Insulin of March 30, 2001
  10. Diabetes Update Number 10: Sof-Tact Meter of April 2, 2001
  11. Diabetes Update Number 11: iControlDiabetes of April 16, 2001
  12. Diabetes Update Number 12: Cinnamon, Tagatose of May 2, 2001
  13. Diabetes Update Number 13: Glycemic Index of May 15, 2001
  14. Diabetes Update Number 14: Eat Your Carrots! of May 31, 2001
  15. Diabetes Update Number 15: Glycemic Load of June 21, 2001
  16. Diabetes Update Number 16: Homocysteine of July 2, 2001
  17. Diabetes Update Number 17: Chana Dal Tips of July 15, 2001
  18. Diabetes Update Number 18: Lag Time in AlternativeLand of August 2, 2001
  19. Diabetes Update Number 19: Fiber of August 15, 2001
  20. Diabetes Update Number 20: How Diabetes Works of August 30, 2001
  21. Diabetes Update Number 21: Insulin Resistance of September 14, 2001
  22. Diabetes Update Number 22: Trans Fats, Honey, CU of October 1, 2001
  23. Diabetes Update Number 23: Pedometer Power of October 15, 2001
  24. Diabetes Update Number 24: Is Glycerin a Carbohydrate? of October 31, 2001
  25. Diabetes Update Number 25: Kill the Meter to Save It of November 15, 2001
  26. Diabetes Update Number 26: Protein, Fat, and the GI of December 1, 2001
  27. Diabetes Update Number 27: Insulin Index of December 14, 2001
  28. Diabetes Update Number 28: Fructose of January 4, 2002
  29. Diabetes Update Number 29: Aspirin of January 14, 2002
  30. Diabetes Update Number 30: Stevia of January 31, 2002
  31. Diabetes Update Number 31: Gretchen Becker’s Book of February 19, 2002
  32. Diabetes Update Number 32: The UKPDS of March 4, 2002
  33. Diabetes Update Number 33: Financial Aid of March 18, 2002
  34. Diabetes Update Number 34: Pre-Diabetes of April 1, 2002
  35. Diabetes Update Number 35: More Glycemic Indexes of April 15, 2002
  36. Diabetes Update Number 36: Gila Monsters of April 30, 2002
  37. Diabetes Update Number 37: Is INGAP a Cure? of May 15, 2002
  38. Diabetes Update Number 38: Native American Diabetes of June 3, 2002
  39. Diabetes Update Number 39: FDA Diabetes of June 19, 2002
  40. Diabetes Update Number 40: Diabetes Support Groups of July 1, 2002
  41. Diabetes Update Number 41: New GI and GL Table of July 15, 2002
  42. Diabetes Update Number 42: Diabetes Sight of August 1, 2002
  43. Diabetes Update Number 43: DrugDigest of August 18, 2002
  44. Diabetes Update Number 44: Hanuman Garden of September 3, 2002
  45. Diabetes Update Number 45: Guidelines of September 16, 2002
  46. Diabetes Update Number 46: Trans Fat of October 4, 2002
  47. Diabetes Update Number 47: Nutrition.Gov of October 16, 2002
  48. Diabetes Update Number 48: Our Hearts of October 31, 2002
  49. Diabetes Update Number 49: Our Kidneys of November 15, 2002
  50. Diabetes Update Number 50: A1C<7 of December 2, 2002
  51. Diabetes Update Number 51: Diabetes Searches with Google of December 16, 2002
  52. Diabetes Update Number 52: e-Patients of January 2, 2003
  53. Diabetes Update Number 53: Email News of January 16, 2003
  54. Diabetes Update Number 54: Third Generation Meters of January 31, 2003
  55. Diabetes Update Number 55: Hypoglycemic Supplies of February 14, 2003
  56. Diabetes Update Number 56: Food Police of March 1, 2003
  57. Diabetes Update Number 57: Vitamins of April 1, 2003
  58. Diabetes Update Number 58: Lancets of May 1, 2003
  59. Diabetes Update Number 59: Accurate Meters of June 1, 2003
  60. Diabetes Update Number 60: Chromium of July 1, 2003
  61. Diabetes Update Number 61: Traveling of August 1, 2003
  62. Diabetes Update Number 62: My Book of September 1, 2003
  63. Diabetes Update Number 63: Hot Tubs of October 1, 2003
  64. Diabetes Update Number 64: Home A1C Testing of November 1, 2003
  65. Diabetes Update Number 65: Detemir of December 1, 2003
  66. Diabetes Update Number 66: Erectile Dysfunction of January 1, 2004
  67. Diabetes Update Number 67: Acidic Foods of February 1, 2004
  68. Diabetes Update Number 68: Net Carbs of March 1, 2004
  69. Diabetes Update Number 69: Glycemic Index of April 1, 2004
  70. Diabetes Update Number 70: Dreamfields Pasta of May 1, 2004
  71. Diabetes Update Number 71: Cholesterol of June 1, 2004
  72. Diabetes Update Number 72: Meter News of July 1, 2004
  73. Diabetes Update Number 73: Pill Splitting of August 1, 2004
  74. Diabetes Update Number 74: GlucoMON of September 1, 2004

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