Iowa State scientists use research to help combat diabetes

Donna Winham, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition. 

Eva Newland

November is American Diabetes Month, and scientists and citizens are working together to find a cure and understand this disease. 

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the blood sugar in the body is too high. There are two primary types of diabetes — Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, and Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t make insulin or doesn’t use it well. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 34.2 million Americans have diabetes, with 1.6 million of those people diagnosed with Type 1. 

This year, the theme of American Diabetes Month is We Stand Greater. American Diabetes Month focuses on bringing knowledge and awareness to those both inside and outside of the diabetes community. 

Scientists at Iowa State are working on research projects with the goal of understanding more about high risk communities for diabetes. 

Donna Winham, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, has published research about the link between Type 2 diabetes and African-American families. 

“With only limited evidence suggesting genetic [Type 2 diabetes] transmission, it is increasingly important to understand the role of the environment, specifically the familial environment, in contributing to development of [Type 2 diabetes],” Winham wrote.

Kevin Schalinske, professor of food science and human nutrition, is also involved in research focusing on mitigating Type 2 diabetes. His team is currently looking at how whole-egg diets impact weight gain and vitamin D status in Type 2 diabetes. 

“The objective of this study was to determine the lowest dose of whole-egg-based diets to effectively attenuate the obese phenotype in [Type 2 diabetic] rats using a dose-response experimental design,” Schalinske wrote. 

Schalinske wrote that more information about the egg-based diet could potentially help those with diabetes. 

Anne Meister, freshman in culinary food science, said she wanted to emphasize the importance of bringing awareness to diabetes. 

“My grandma had diabetes,” Meister said. “I’m lucky that my high school was really focused on teaching us about diabetes and reminding us to treat people with kindness. You wouldn’t judge a cancer patient for having cancer, so why do people think it’s okay to judge a diabetic for having diabetes?”

About 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year, and 88 million Americans age 18 and older have prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. 

The prevalence of diabetes among adults has been steadily increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The Orlando Clinical Research Center is focused on diabetes research. They predicted the number of youth with diabetes will rise substantially by 2050, with an increase of around 49 percent. 

“Diabetes is an extremely common disease, affecting a diverse age range of people across the world,” according to its website. “This disease also kills more people every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. We know that working towards a more comprehensive treatment for diabetes will enable researchers to improve the lifestyles of the millions of people who struggle with diabetes every day.”