Nearly three years ago I challenged the authors of a particularly poor paper titled "Impact of self monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) in the management of patients with non-insulin treated diabetes: open parallel group randomised trial" in the British Medical Journal to conduct a study based on Test, Review, Adjust.
When I first read Jennifer's Test, Test, Test I used to wonder why a study of that method had never been performed.
Of course now, with a little more experience, the reasons are fairly obvious to me. To start with, no researchers are even vaguely aware of the technique. That is apart from the fact that the results are unlikely to lead to increases in medication sales. Over five years ago, back when I naively thought someone would listen, I rang the Australian offices of Roche and Lilly to suggest it. They were polite and totally uninterested. I thought that at least the major test-strip manufacturers may have a vested interest. Apparently not.
My response to that paper was another small attempt to interest somebody in the appropriate field in the concept. But I have to be realistic; not many researchers read the "Rapid Responses" and Farmer et al certainly were not going make any attempt to prove themselves wrong.
The idea surfaced again today when Stuart, a Type 1 diabetic on the dLife forum, posted this very interesting question:
"If you wanted someone to explore something, to do a STUDY on a subject(s) about our diabetes, what do you want them to research? What areas do YOU want to know far more about that don't seem to be being done??? "
He had some very interesting replies. You can read them here. I would like to expand slightly on my answer there.
There are so many areas of diabetes crying out for research. There are some that have never been studied at all, including those dealing with diet modified by structured testing or similar methods which can lead to minimal medication or insulin needs. At the moment research tends to be focused on finding new medications or new ways to use old medications. In the real world "who pays the piper calls the tune".
No researchers are asking us, the diabetics, "what should we be researching?"
My own area of interest is just one of many possibilities. Despite understanding the reasons I still find it hard to believe that after more than three decades of home self-testing of blood glucose by diabetics no medical researcher, anywhere, has researched the use of structured self-testing for dietary modification to reduce blood glucose excursions.
Thousands of type 2 diabetics like myself have been "researching" the method personally and reporting their individual successes on many different forums since before I was diagnosed eight years ago, but we don't count in professional medical and research terms. We are diabetics, not scientists and our reports are anecdotes, not data.
I will offer the basic idea. Who knows, maybe there is a bright scientist out there looking for a PhD subject who has the ability to find a grant or research funds.
I propose a study comparing two groups of type 2 diabetics, all within their first 12 months of diagnosis. The only exclusion criteria would be that none should be using insulin or an insulin-stimulating medication such as a sulfonylurea at the commencement of the study.
Group 1, control, would be treated as individuals by their physicians and other specialists in exactly the same way as the present guidelines for their country. For example that would be the ADA or AACE and American Dietetic Association guidelines in the USA, Diabetes Australia here, or the NICE/NHS guidelines in the UK.
Group 2 would would also be treated as individuals by their physicians and other specialists in exactly the same way as the present guidelines for their country with the exception of dietary and testing guidelines. Instead, they would be given basic dietary guidelines to understand the differences between carbohydrates, fats and protein and their effect on blood glucose levels, and would also receive training and support in using feedback from peak post-prandial blood glucose testing to modify diet and lifestyle. The method taught would be based on the technique described in Test, Review, Adjust. If that needs clarification I am available as a consultant :)
The period of study would be three months initially, with weekly support and review to record indicators for both groups for the first four weeks, then monthly for the next two months with a preliminary report prepared after three months. Periodic follow-up review and reports would be performed at 12 months, five years and ten years. Indicators recorded would include A1c, fasting and peak post-prandial blood glucose levels, lipids, weight, blood pressure and any others the researchers felt valuable.
The five year and ten year reports would follow up all the earlier results and also include morbidity and mortality and any differences in progression to, or of, diabetes complications.
An inexpensive pilot study would not need very large populations and could be restricted to the first three months. The results of that could support further study over the longer period with a larger population.
I can also see other possible studies. For example, the possibility of combining Gannon and Nuttall's LoBAG20 or LoBAG30 diet with the above study as the starting diet for Group 2 is one that intrigues me. But it may be unwise to put too many variables in the mix. One thing at a time.
My area of interest may be quite different to yours. If you were the person asked by the researchers "what do you want us to study?" what would your answer be?
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter