Diabetes on the rise, hope on the horizon

Diabetes is going to be a major future health problem, much more than previously thought. Canadian researchers, Lorraine Lipscombe and Janet Hux, reported a significant increase in the past decade in the prevalence rates of diabetes in Ontario, by 69% between 1995 and 20051. This increase is greater than the 39% that the World Health Organization (WHO) projected for 20301.

The authors attributed the increase in prevalence of diabetes to both increasing incidence and declining mortality, in particular to the rise in Type 2 diabetes, for which the increasing obesity rates play a major role, and population aging. They recommended effective public health measures aimed at preventing diabetes, and improved resources to manage the many more persons living longer with the condition.

The study published today (March 5, 2007) in the journal, The Lancet, suggests that we could expect diabetes, whose prevalence has increased significantly in the past two decades, to extract even more toll in healthcare costs and disease burden. However, it also suggests that we do something about it, reducing obesity rates for example, and new research findings on rats suggest we could do much more.

The study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (February 2007 DOI: 10.1002/jsfa2808), showed that black soya beans could help fight against obesity and possibly prevent Type 2 diabetes, in addition to the beans helping to reduce cholesterol levels2. The researchers, led by Dr. Shin Joung Rho of Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea studied four groups of rats on a fatty diet, with varied quantities of black soya and one group not on any. They found that the rats that did not receive any black soya gained twice as much weight as those that received 10% of their energy from black soya, whose total blood cholesterol also fell by 25% and LDL levels, 'bad' cholesterol, by 60%2.

Soya proteins slow down the metabolism of the liver, decreasing cholesterol and fatty acids production. The results of this study are no doubt exciting, but additional research would be necessary to confirm them in humans. We should also try to keep our weight within the normal for our height, considering the major role that weight plays in Type 2 diabetes, 80% of persons diagnosed with which, overweight at the time of diagnosis. We should also not rely on black soya beans alone, although have low fat, and relatively high protein and soluble fiber content, to prevent us having diabetes. Rather, we should in addition engage in regular physical activity and eat, healthy, balanced diet. Surely, there is hope in the horizon. Embrace it.


1. Lipscombe L, Hux JE, Trends in diabetes prevalence, incidence, and mortality in Ontario, Canada 1995–2005: a population-based study