Posted by on Saturday, 7 May 2016

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

Apologies for the interruption - the fluffy four-footed addition to our household has made finding time for blogging very difficult in recent months. Which is unfortunate really, because I have at least three or four posts waiting in the wings that I would really like to put together!

We picked up our young Clumberdoodle pup at the beginning of April and time has absolutely flown by since. For a couple of months before Marvin's arrival we were busily DIYing and generally attempting to puppy-proof (ha!) the house and garden a little. It's all been a bit of a blur to be honest and reminded Jane and I of a heady combination of those weeks with a newborn babe, mixed in with a good dollop of toddler mischief and a hint of teenage experimentation and boundary-pushing. Fortunately Marvin is a dog who likes a nap, and can be persuaded to do pretty much anything for the promise of a bit of chicken or nibble of Schmacko.

Around the middle of March I was chuffed to be invited by the wonderful Dr May Ng to speak at the North West Children and Young People's Network Education Day - if you'd like to get a glimpse of what went on I put together a Storify of the tweets. Alternatively, everyone's favourite Diabetes Dad, Kev Winchcombe wrote a great, but altogether far too modest blog post about the day. His talk was far more packed with laughs and interesting detail about diagnosis, transition, DIY APS and Nightscout than my blathering about spurious similarities between daily management of type 1 diabetes and Scalextric!

In the coming months I am really hoping to post a follow up to my reflections on DPC2016 detailing what I picked up from Iain Cranston's fantastic presentation on interpreting CGM data and Ambulatory Glucose Profile reports.

Additionally I have seen a number of conflicting reports/research about cholesterol and Statins in recent weeks and I'd really like to post something about that - if only to be able to process it a little myself.

Thirdly, I am honoured to have been invited by Abbott to attend an event in Stockholm in June called 'Dx' which looks to be really very interesting indeed.

Lastly I have been quietly working with a few other DOC legends (quite how I managed to scrape into their hallowed company is beyond me) on something I am only half-jokingly calling "Project Enormous". We hope that soon - perhaps in the next month or two - it will reach the point where we can release it into the wild and see if it has any 'legs', and lives up to the promise of the idea.

Exciting times.

Hope your BGs play fair in the meantime and thanks, as ever, for reading.

Disclaimer. For my attendance at the North West Diabetes Network Education Day my travel and accommodation expenses were generously paid, but no speaker's fees were offered or received.

Posted by on Thursday, 10 March 2016

Your Diabetes May Vary (again!) - BG variation after food

Two different carbohydrates, yesterday. (CC)
Which would hit your bloodstream faster, a banana or a biscuit? Pure glucose or a slice of white bread?

Well, in news that will come as a bit of a shock to some (and not at all to others), you can't actually know without checking for yourself.

Anyone with diabetes who has spent much time monitoring blood glucose levels before and after meals (especially if they have then compared their results with anyone else), may well already be familiar with this conversation: Person A: "I find porridge is great in the morning, it releases really steadily until lunchtime"
Person B: "Really?!? I can't go near porridge - it hits me like a train. All breakfast cereal does. Which is odd really, because Mars bars cause me no BG problems at all" etc etc. Rinse. Repeat.

Well a recent study published in 'Cell' by the Weizmann Institute of Science has demonstrated once and for all what we pancreatically-challenged types have suspected for a long time. That blood glucose responses to different foods are infuriatingly and often bewilderingly individual.

The study took 800 people without diabetes, around 54% of them were overweight and 22% classified as obese (with a BMI of over 30 kg/m2). They were connected to a Continuous Glucose Monitor for a week at a time, but the CGM was 'blinded' so participants had no way of seeing what was happening to their levels. CGM consists of a small sensor placed under the skin which records interstitial glucose values every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day. These values generally lag behind true blood glucose values by 10 minutes or so, but give a complete picture of what is happening before and after food and during sleep. People in the study recorded their food intake, levels of activity and so on using a smartphone app. They followed their normal routine, and ate as they normally would with the exception of breakfast, where they were assigned one of 4 standardised meals containing 50g of carbohydrate.

If you have spent much time online, sharing experiences with people with diabetes you may get a nice warm fuzzy feeling of "Aha! I *knew* it!" at the results. Here are a few things that came out of the research that caught my eye:

Responses to different foods were highly individual. Many people's BG rose rapidly after a standardised glucose meal as you would expect, but others were relatively untroubled by pure glucose, while eating bread sent their BG levels through the roof.

A graph comparing two participants shows an almost exact inverse response between, for example, cookies and bananas. In the light of this, any lists of 'foods which release slowly' can only ever be viewed as a general guide. Your own response to any food could well be very different.

In general, people who had higher BG responses after eating carried more weight than those with lower responses. The paper doesn't offer any thoughts as to whether these higher BGs make people put on weight, or whether the excess weight causes the elevated post-meal BGs, but in either case this association did not just occur at the extreme ends, but as a continuous range across the various weights.

The highest post-meal responses 'significantly correlated' with elevated (but still non-diabetic) HbA1c, waking glucose level, BMI and also age - all known to be risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. It looks to me like these are people whose metabolisms are already beginning to struggle.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, post-meal responses were shown to be very different to the same foods if eaten after resting/sleeping vs after exercising. Apparently the Pope is also Catholic.

A 100 people took part in a further study which allowed the researchers to develop an algorithm that successfully predicted post-meal BG responses from a variety of clinical, physical and 'microbiome' (eg gut bacteria) factors. Personalised diets were then able to reduce post-meal BGs effectively. In the Diabetes Online Community we simply call this ‘eat to your meter’.

The scientists wonder if working directly on reducing post-meal BGs would, over time, reduce some of the other associated risk factors including reducing weight, HbA1c and lowering risk of fatty liver disease.

What do I think this means for me?
Well first of all, it helps me realise that it's not just me being 'weird' after all. Different people really do react differently to different foods. Sometimes in completely inexplicable ways. I spent almost 20 years eating things that had been recommended as 'slow release' before beginning to systematically test my own responses to foods and discovering a few surprises and several absolute shockers that I had always believed were 'pretty safe'.

In general, it is easy to see that the proportion of carbohydrate in a meal could have a fairly direct impact on post-meal BGs, but this research goes some way to explain many of those 'Huh??!?' moments, and demonstrates that there's a lot more to it than that for each individual.

People make a lot of noise over 'low carb' vs 'high carb', but in truth, those definitions are of little interest to me. What I'm after is a varied, enjoyable, sustainable, LOW BG SPIKE diet that suits *me*. This research encourages me to continue looking for it.

"Your Diabetes May Vary", and all that.

Posted by on Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2016 - Education, Individualisation and steps in the right direction

Between Wednesday and Friday last week I found myself in sunny Glasgow immersed in the insanely intense experience that is the annual Diabetes UK Professional Conference. I had been lucky enough to attend last year as one of Diabetes UK's bloggers and tweeters. This year Diabetes UK wisely ran a competition to throw the net a little wider for patients interested in attending the event and spreading the word. Thankfully they had the good sense to ignore my application and selected five people who did a significantly better job of sharing the content of the conference with the #doc (Diabetes Online Community) than I did last year. Hats off (alphabetically) to Andy, Bob, Charlotte, Ellie and Helen - you did an amazing job. In particular, Andy Broomhead has really put the work in covering many sessions of the conference in a series of excellent blog posts. Ignore this turgid waffle and go and read them instead - they are far better.

Undeterred by not making the cut with DUK, I contacted the lovely folks at Abbott Diabetes to ask whether they would be prepared to sponsor any patient attendance to the conference. I was delighted when they said that this was going to be a possibility, and was subsequently asked if I would be prepared to share some thoughts of my experience as a patient who has used Freestyle Libre off and on for a year or two.

And so it was that I hopped on a plane early Wednesday morning and was able to make the opening sessions of the conference in the architecturally-spectacular SECC in Glasgow. The Diabetes UK Professional Conference really is quite hard to describe. At least this year I was a bit more mentally prepare for its scale. There are upwards of 3,000 people from all over the world who specialise in diabetes, and everywhere you look people are making connections, comparing notes, absorbing new research and knowledge and generally seeking to see, or create, or develop better diabetes care. The programme is so packed full of sessions and opportunities that however much you try to cram in you are left with the feeling that you have missed out on really good stuff. Additionally, having been to a few events over the last year or two I am beginning to find the concourse a more hazardous environment - particularly if timings between sessions are tight. It's all too easy to bump into someone you've met before and grabbing a 'quick five minute' catch-up can leave you scurrying to your next session and having to creep in at the back with the apologetic shrug of a guilty latecomer.

I cannot possibly do justice to all the excellent sessions that I saw over the three days, so instead here are a few edited highlights.

Overall themes that struck me: Education; individualisation of care; leveraging (ugh! sorry) apps and technology; empowering and engaging young people; treating people, not numbers.

New outcome trials in type 1 diabetes
The opening plenary session on the first day included three talks, one of which was Simon Heller presenting results from the REPOSE trial (The Relative Effectiveness of Pumps over MDI and Structured Education for Type-1 diabetes) which is due for publication very soon. Essentially, REPOSE has shown that pumps, on their own, make less difference than might be supposed. Yes they *are* more flexible, yes they *are* more precise and offer additional techniques and possibilities such as extended boluses and temporary basal rates - but as Simon Heller said, "You can't take someone with a high HbA1c and say, 'You need a pump, that will fix it', because it simply isn't true." His argument was that as good as the technology is, people need a lot more help, support and training in managing their own diabetes in order for that technology to work well. People can do very well on pumps, people can do very well on MDI - but it is the help and support they have received in making better decisions that will make the biggest difference. It also makes me wonder whether, for some people, approval for pump therapy forms a sort of catalyst to re-examining their day-to-day management strategies. And what T1 care really needs in the UK is more engaged, better supported and individually encouraged patients who are equipped to wrestle their own particular diabetes monster as best they can.

Everyone's second-favourite rabble-rousing superstar endo Partha Kar summed this up quite nicely in his round-up blog post:.
It isn't about the latest super insulin, it isn't about the flashy technology, it isn't about the "cloud", it isn't about Apps or offering education programmes... it's only about one thing- YOUR ability as a professional to engage and communicate with the patient- move away from the "how's your blood sugars?" to "how are you"... till that day, we will not be able to improve outcomes - however much resource we magic up.

Colin Dayan then spoke about peptide immunotherapy (more on that later) followed by Rob Andrews and Parth Narendran presenting results from the EXTOD trial (exercise in type one diabetes). One result of the trial that really struck me was that when polled the majority of HCPs felt confident to advise around exercise and type 1. However when those same professionals were tested with a detailed questionnaire, they were often not able to give reliable information in response to the questions. is a resource that aims to offer good information for heathcare professionals and to support patients with type 1 seeking to exercise.

Apps and web-based technology: fad or future for diabetes care?
A topic quite close to my heart this one. I was gutted to miss Nick Oliver sharing about automated dose adjustment (that bloomin' concourse again!) but hugely encouraged to hear from patients and HCPs at both Kings (Geraldine Gallen, Imogen Lee) and Newham (Mark Norman, Shanti Vijayaraghavan) about their experiences of 'virtual clinics' using Skype and other web-based technologies to support people with diabetes wherever and whenever they need it. A more flexible, less attendance-at-clinic-based-approach improved engagement, patient satisfaction and outcomes, particularly with young people. To be honest it sounded very like being connected to the #DOC, but with added 'doctoriness'.

Lastly Andy McQueen and Deborah Wake went on to describe the successful 'My Diabetes, My Way' project in Scotland.

Glucose Monitoring in Diabetes
Another selection of three talks. Andrew Farmer spoke about self-monitoring in type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately his studies always seem to come down on the side of 'no' for the general T2 population, and always talk about 'adherence to diet' rather than transforming your diet by 'eating to your meter'. Interestingly David Owens who chaired the session asked "is there a group of patients outside the guidelines who are willing to use SMBG to change their behaviour?" to which Prof Farmer did concede, "there is no evidence at a population level, but if someone says it really helps - then it is open to try it out". Sadly I was right at the very back of the auditorium, too far away from the microphone and wasn't able to ask about Dr Farmer's reaction to Jane Speight's interesting paper on the STEP study which concludes that structured testing for T2s not on meds can be very beneficial. This certainly seems to be borne out by experiences of people I see on diabetes forums who are able to reduce or eliminate medication using SMBG to define a diet that their body is able to metabolise properly by experimentation rather than guesswork or 'adherence' to what someone else says they should be eating.

The session on deciphering CGM data by Iain Cranston was probably my favourite of the whole conference. I'd like to go into that in rather more detail so I'll cover it in a separate post.

Finally for that session Lalantha Leelarathna spoke about emerging technologies, bolus calculators, Libre, CGM and encouraging results from sensor augmented pump and artificial pancreas trials.

In the exhibition hall
Later in the afternoon I gave the first of my 10 minute talks about the ups and downs of juggling type 1 and how I have been using the Freestyle Libre as an occasional part of my toolkit for the past few years. Slightly unnerving just having to start talking on the Abbott stand with people milling about, but just as they had for the brilliant Peter Hammond, people soon began to stop and listen to my rather less edifying wittering and a small crowd formed.

One other intriguing discovery on day one was a stand for a new blood glucose monitor (the Keya Smart), due to launch in the Summer (the UK being first in the world) which simultaneously measures blood glucose and ketones on the same strip from the same sample. Cynically I have to say I assumed that the strips would be priced perhaps halfway between 'normal' BG strips and the significantly more expensive blood ketone strips. However, the people on the stand suggested approximately £15 a pot - which is fairly average among BG strips. I'm not one who seems to struggle with ketones, and I am quite content with urine strips, but the possibility of ketone monitoring alongside each BG test could be hugely reassuring for anyone who has struggled with DKA. The meter offers a traffic-light style readout through green, amber and red to alert you if ketones are present and worsening - so you can instantly tell if you BG is simply annoyingly high or if you need to be taking more drastic action/considering A&E. It will be interesting to see if the product lives up to the hype when it launches.

Day two

Immune Pathways in Type 1 Diabetes: will they lead to a cure?
Mark Peakman's mind-bending Dorothy Hodgkin Lecture picked up where Colin Dayan had left off. All I can say is that it made a great deal of sense at the time, but really the science is way beyond me. It seems they can already identify people who will go on to develop Type 1 Diabetes at some point with some certainty, even in infancy. The tantalising possibility is to use peptide immunotherapy to alter the errant immune system action and prevent the onset of type 1. The signs are very encouraging, but (almost inevitably) still at a very early stage.

Chaired by Pratik Choudhary and Jackie Elliott, these 6 short talks covered many aspects of hypoglycaemia, brain function, risk, inpatient experience and models of care. One extraordinary and very unexpected statistic related to the average age of people admitted to hospital with Severe Hypoglycaemia. I would have assumed that the challenge lay primarily with children, or perhaps young people and teens. However the data presented clearly showed that the distribution is shifted towards elderly patients, often those living alone. I can't imagine how frightening this would be. However a new model of care developed in the East of England, including a 'single point of contact' had made significant progress in reducing repeat-caller rates and with increased referral to education has provide significant savings both in terms of money (more than enough to pay for itself), but more importantly the major cost in terms of quality of life.

Individualising targets in diabetes: NICE or not NICE?
Of course I was not able to resist this discussion about the role of NICE guidance in informing diabetes care. Chaired by Nicola Milne and Paul Newman, four speakers offered their opinion on the role of NICE guidance. Laura (ninjabetic1) gave a wonderful patient perspective covering structured education, test strip allowances, targets and inpatient care. Many good things in the guidance, but how many are being done? Whether the new tighter HbA1c guidance to avoid complications might induce feelings of judgement and failure.

Brian Frier from Edinburgh then gave some harrowing accounts of people being treated to inappropriate glycaemic targets. Chasing potential long-term benefits for the avoidance of complications in elderly patients gradually introducing treatment on top of treatment until they ran the risk of falls or injury related to hypoglycaemia. QoF came under a good deal of scrutiny, particularly in the way it discourages individualisation of care.

David Millar-Jones, a GP from south Wales dissected whether the type 2 guidance was fit for purpose. The published version had come a long way from the initial consultation draft he said, but there were still question marks over whether it could be easily used in real-world practice clinics.

Lastly Partha Kar offered his thoughts on whether the Type 1 guidance was realistic, or simply a utopian fantasy. He made it clear that he felt that the guidance itself was excellent, but asked the more difficult question of what the outcome of the publication was likely to be, particularly in the light of less-than-rosy National Diabetes Audit reports for Type 1. Whether the guideline production machine was actually able to achieve much in the cash-strapped reality of the 21st Century NHS.

This was probably one of the most lively sessions I attended with many questions and comments being made at the end of each of the talks. We were fortunate that Stephanie Amiel the hugely respected chair of the Type 1 guideline development group was there to clarify one or two points. And I may have accidentally stood up at the end to offer a few thoughts of my own, and to confess to the lower A1c target which was, after all, mostly my fault.

There was much to be encouraged about during the conference. A genuine desire to see diabetes outcomes improve, to share and promote better ways of doing things and to make tangible progress towards more people living better with diabetes.

Here are a few quotes that really resonated with me during the three days.

All in all a fantastic time and lovely to be able to meet up with so many faces old and new. Lis, Laura, Sandie, Charlotte, Ellie, Helen, Emma, Sophie, Dani, Hannah, Jackie, Becky, Stephanie, Andy, Bob, Peter H, Partha, Pratik, Pete D, Kris, Jonathan, Neil, Sacha, Sheldon and many more I know I have forgotten. Here are a few of us gathered in the bar of the Crowne Plaza on Thursday evening.

Disclaimer. Abbott Diabetes kindly paid for my travel, accommodation and entry to the conference. They also paid a modest honorarium to cover the time taken to prepare and deliver my short talks. I was not asked to say anything in particular and if I thought the Libre was terrible I would have said so. I have not been paid to write this post or any Tweets relating to the conference. The chance, as they say, would be a fine thing.

Posted by on Sunday, 7 February 2016

Freestyle Libre - Going for the hat-trick?

Abbott have been able to announce a couple of really exciting bits of news in the last few weeks. Just in case you hadn't heard here they are...

Libre approved for use in children
The lovely Lesley Joseph from INPUT was attending ATTD 2016 (Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes) in Milan last week and was excited to share a glimpse of one of the presentations where Abbott announced that they had achieved a license for Libre in children. This was enthusiastically shared on social media along with another of the slides from the conference with some of the details from the study.

This is really good news for parents of children with diabetes who have been wanting to try the Libre as part of their diabetes management toolkit. It also reassures those who jumped in early before approval and used the Libre 'off license' for their children that they can now contact Abbott with a happy heart if they have any problems or need any advice.

Not to be outdone, Abbott themselves made an official announcement soon afterwards. Unsurprisingly choosing overnight testing as a particularly useful time to have a Libre in use. A lot less hassle to wave a reader through the duvet than to have to get a lancet out at 3am and rouse your slumbering child.

This welcome news came pretty hot on the heels of another long-awaited update in the story of the Libre...

No more waiting list
Following the launch of their new high volume production facility in January, Abbott have been able to clear the UK waiting list and the Libre can now be bought by anyone without having to wait. I heard about this a good few weeks back, but was a little cautious to mention it until I could actually see the results (we have been here before remember). However a week or so ago the news on TwitFace and other Social Bloggings was that, yes, the waiting list is no more. Hurrah!

At the same time, I had also heard from Abbott that they were beginning to roll out an official smartphone app that allows people who have a phone with an NFC chip to dispense with the reader and just use their phone to take Libre readings. I can't say much more than that as it has currently only launched in Sweden, but being able to ditch the separate meter certainly appeals to me. There are a couple of 'home spun' Android apps that attempt to do the same, but an official one from Abbott would reassure users that it has had to be put through all of the regulatory rigours of the handset itself. I will watch this one with interest (though I suspect as it stands no iPhone version will be possible because of the way Apple limits access to the iPhone 6's NFC chip).

I have not heard any more information about plans to launch either the Libre itself, or the app in more countries (though I know the UK is next on the list for app launch), but I have been promised a bit of a catch-up with Abbott in the near future and will keep you posted if I hear anything else.

The next big thing?
What would make this perfect for UK readers, of course, would be the announcement that the Libre was to become available on prescription via the NHS. Rumours and grapevine whisperings suggest that this might be tantalisingly close, but as yet remains elusive.

It seems there was much talk at ATTD about CGM (and other continuous monitoring options) and sensor-augmented pump therapy (Smartguard and other Artificial Pancreas dual or triple hormone technologies) so we will all be watching with interest.

If you hear any juicy gossip or rumours, do share them in the comments below.

Posted by on Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Another Non-invasive BG Meter?

Stumbled across this yesterday. I'd heard rumours of this new non-invasive BG monitor a while back, but it looks like they are gradually creeping towards a finished product.

It's not a continuous monitor (so can't offer trend arrows on the device or any kind of automatic alerts) but *is* measuring blood glucose values so, perhaps, might be sufficient for DVLA. Measurements look to take 10s and are made by passing radio waves through thin areas of skin such as your ear lobe, or more likely that stretchy bit between your thumb and fingers.

Results are displayed on the device and can be blue-toothily uploaded via a smartphone/tablet app to a cloud-based software platform. The app promises to use the uploaded data "to calculate and forecast immediate trends in your blood glucose levels, allowing you to adjust your food or medication intake according to your activities or how you are feeling". Sounds promising, but a bit wishy-washy and vague in terms of what that might actually *mean*.

The non-invasive nature means, of course, that you could monitor your BG many more times a day without burning through strips. Ideal when waiting for BGs to come up (or start dropping) and allowing some of those 'sugar surfing' techniques (is it just me whose toes curl every time I hear that phrase?). Also pretty handy for testing on-the-go in situations where fiddling with strips and lancets is impossible, much like Abbott's Libre.

Currently in clinical trials and the website suggests it may be available for pre-order (whatever timescale that means!) at some point in 2016

Another to go on my long list of possible 'ones to watch'.

More details at

Disclaimer. I have no relationship with the manufacturers of this device and I've not been paid to write this post or publicise the product in any way.