Your Brain and How To Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
When people think about type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is typically the organ that comes to mind as being involved in the disease. But what about the brain? Could it be the key to reversing type 2 diabetes?
Not a new idea
I was surprised to learn that about 100 years ago, researchers thought the brain played a key role in keeping blood glucose levels in balance. But then something happened: Frederick Banting and Charles Best made a pancreatic extract called isletin, which later became known as insulin and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
For decades, insulin and various antidiabetes drugs became the focus of treatment for diabetes. Although these substances can be effective, they only help control the disease by manipulating insulin levels or increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
The bottom line is the current conventional treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes do not tackle head on the underlying risk factors and causes of the disease. But what if we return to the brain idea?
Now a team of scientists from the United States and Germany report they have evidence that the brain plays a key role in blood glucose and communicates with the pancreas.
What does this mean to you if you have type 2 diabetes? At this very moment, not a lot, but the potential behind this finding could be significant, including new ways to prevent, treat, and possibly reverse the disease.
New research, old idea
In the new research, the authors suggest that the islet cells in the pancreas (which make insulin) and several areas of the brain (including the hypothalamus, which controls basic functions such as thirst, hormone release, hunger, sex drive, and sleep). More specifically they claim that type 2 diabetes occurs when both the islet cells and the brain do not regulate blood sugar.
Here’s why they make this claim.
- After reviewing animal and human research studies, they accumulated evidence that a brain-based regulatory system has an impact on blood glucose levels separate from the effect imparted by the islet cells and the pancreas.
- This brain-based system is responsible for nearly half of the ability of the body’s cells to take in (uptake) sugar while the pancreas system is responsible for the other portion.
- Thus, type 2 diabetes develops when this relationship fails
The authors also proposed that the brain-centered portion of the process usually fails first, which places a great deal of stress on the pancreas to carry on. Eventually, the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand and the result is type 2 diabetes.
Can we reverse type 2 diabetes?
The authors also pointed out that taking insulin and treating type 2 diabetes helps bring blood glucose levels back to a healthier range, but that addresses only part of the issue. If scientists find a way to take control of the brain-based system involved in the process, then this two-fisted approach—tackling both the pancreas and the brain—may make it possible to reverse type 2 diabetes.
In the meantime, everyone with type 2 diabetes can take steps to follow a proper diet, exercise regularly, consider natural herbal approaches to blood sugar control, lose weight if they are overweight, practice stress reduction, and keep abreast of the latest in type 2 diabetes research at Emaxhealth and other sources.
Schwartz MW et al. Cooperation between brain and islet in glucose homeostasis and diabetes. Nature 2013 Nov 6; 503:59-66