Quinn on Nutrition: Unorthodox tactics to fight Type 1 diabetes

August 11, 2014

We were invited to stroll through stunning vineyards as we made our way to picnic tables shaded by giant oaks trees. While we munched on lunch, Clarence the Clown entertained us with colorful balloons, magic tricks and his own brand of nutrition humor: "Cannibals donít like clowns, you knowÖthey taste funny."

It was an unorthodox kick-off to the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) "Walk for a Cure," acknowledged chairperson Sandra Silvestri, who hosted the event at her family-owned vineyard in Carmel Valley, Calif.

A good reminder though, of some unique treatments coming down the pike to control and one day cure this serious disease.

Unlike type 2 diabetes that is closely tied to genetics, excess weight and lack of exercise, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In type 1, the body ó for some unknown reason ó attacks and destroys its own insulin-producing cells. Since insulin is vitally needed to direct energy (glucose) from food into cells, people with type 1 diabetes are dependent on multiple daily injections of insulin for survival.

Silvestriís son, Joey, now 24, was 2 years old when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 doesnít just strike children, however. It can affect adults as well.

And, no, you donít get type 1 diabetes from eating too much sugar. A lack of insulin causes excess sugar (glucose) to a build up in the blood and leads to major complications, however. And because insulin doses must constantly be matched to food and exercise habits, extreme highs or lows of blood sugar levels are a constant threat to a person with type 1 diabetes.

Thatís where JDRF comes in. Besides funding research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, this charitable organization provides support to families who live with this disease. A mentoring program, for example, pairs newly diagnosed children and adults with those who know what itís like, says JDFR representative Mia McKee.

Most of the money raised by JDRF goes directly to research and clinical trials, says Silvestri. "Weíre working all ends of the spectrum," she said, "so this help gets into the hands of our loved ones."

For example, researchers are now testing an artificial pancreas ó a device to automatically control blood sugar levels based on a personís daily habits. And a "smart" insulin that turns on when it is needed and turns off when itís not is currently under investigation. "JDRF will lead us to a cure," said Executive Director Julia Rickert. And that takes continued funds for research. So to this end comes another invitation.

Our kick-off event ended with a bit of wine tasting in the Silvestri barrel room hosted by winemaker Frank Melicia.

"This oneís got some giddy-up," he said about one particular blend.

And so do these faithful volunteers and workers for JDRF, I thought.

"Letís turn type 1 into type none," Silvestri concluded. Letís do it!




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