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Early insulin treatment for people with type 2 diabetes protects beta cells, according to new trial

Treating newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes with insulin therapy is as effective as 15 months of oral therapy and may protect insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at Ohio University and Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic medicine, involved treating 23 adults with insulin therapy shortly after their diagnosis with type 2 diabetes.
The randomised controlled trial involved splitting the participants into two groups: the first was treated with insulin, the second with only intensive oral therapy. The insulin group saw an average drop in HbA1c levels from 86.9mmol/mol (10.1 per cent) to 49.7mmol/mol (6.7 per cent). The oral therapy also saw a drop, but a less significant one than the insulin group: 84.7mmol/mol (9.9 per cent) to 50.8mmol/mol (6.8 per cent). Participants receiving insulin therapy experienced no severe hypoglycemia, and lost an average of five pounds in weight. The oral therapy group gained weight.
“While the improvement in glucose was relatively comparable between the two groups, our findings support the idea that the body can improve its natural insulin secreting ability when early insulin is give,” said Jay Shubrook, lead researcher. “This may be because early insulin therapy protects beta cells in the pancreas that respond to glucose and produce insulin.”
However, the study has several limitations, acknowledged by the researchers. It is a small study, concerning only 23 participants, and featured a disproportionate number of participants with a BMI greater than 40 – high enough to be considered “severely obese.” Despite these limitations, the study has the potential to shed light on the improvement of outcomes for newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients.
The findings will be presented at the Osteopathic Medical Conference and Exposition (OMED) in October.

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