Texts Are As Good As Drugs For Managing Type 2 Diabetes

| June 19, 2017

In a novel study, researchers have found that getting regular, supportive text messages improved the blood sugar control of people with type 2 diabetes just as well as medication. In three months, they saw their HbA1C levels – a measure of longer-term blood sugar control – drop from 80 to 69 mmol/mol (from 9.5 to 8.5 per cent).

The study was carried out in San Diego, California and the participants were low-income members of the Hispanic community.1 These were people who typically had no health insurance, no car, and often no job, so accessing health services was difficult for them. They were split into two groups – both continued with their usual treatment regime, but one group also received around two texts per day for the six months of the study.

Both groups were given basic information about diabetes, a blood sugar meter and access to a doctor and a diabetes education team. People in the texting group also received a mobile phone if they didn’t own one. The daily texts they got were short, gentle reminders of good habits for blood sugar control and/or weight loss. Some were interactive, for instance, reminding participants to check their HbA1C level and text back the result.

By the third month of the trial, the blood sugar readings of the texting group had dropped by 11 mmol/mol (1 per cent) on average, compared with no change in the control group. This is the sort of reduction one might expect from some diabetes medications. And, according to Diabetes UK, people with diabetes who reduce their HbA1C levels by this amount cut their risk of microvascular complications by 25 per cent. That means cutting the odds of neuropathy (nerve damage), retinopathy (sight problems) and nephropathy (kidney disease).

Personalised advice and support is no longer easy to find

Perhaps we should not be surprised by these results. People with diabetes need support on a personal level, particularly if life has not been kind to them in other ways. In the days before mobile phones and texts, family doctors had more time to talk to their patients and weren’t so focused on clinical outcome targets. And we had an army of wonderful District Nurses in the UK, who are, sadly, fast disappearing.

District Nurses are the unsung heroes of the NHS, visiting chronically ill people in their own homes to provide ongoing care and down-to-earth advice. But, despite an unprecedented need for their services, they have become an endangered species. The Royal College of Nursing warned three years ago that District Nurse numbers had almost halved in a decade, and that the remaining workforce was so over-stretched they could no longer do their jobs properly. By 2025 District Nurses are likely to “face extinction”.2

If a texting service for people with diabetes, like that trialled in San Diego, were to be set up on a national basis, it could save a significant slice of the 10 billion pounds the NHS spends annually on type 2 diabetes, much of which goes straight into the coffers of Big Pharma. But I won’t hold my breath.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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