National Diabetes Week – Diabetes research at IPAN

Diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges facing Australia. According to Diabetes Australia, around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, and more than 100,000 people have developed the disease in the past year.

Diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges facing Australia. According to Diabetes Australia, around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, and more than 100,000 people have developed the disease in the past year. It’s well known that physical activity and good nutrition can help prevent, delay and treat diabetes, but we still have much to learn. Read about some of the diabetes research underway at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin.

Associate Professor Glenn Wadley

Glenn is examining the role of vitamin C as a therapy for people with type 2 diabetes.

He says while physical activity, good nutrition and current diabetes medications are standard care and very important for managing type 2 diabetes, some people can find it tough to manage their blood glucose levels even with medication.

“Vitamin C could potentially be a cheap, convenient and effective additional therapy for sufferers of type 2 diabetes, used in addition to their usual anti-diabetic treatments to improve blood glucose control,” he says.

“Our research has found that vitamin C works to counteract free radicals and improve the disposal of blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. This is due to vitamin C’s known antioxidant properties, which improve the capacity of the muscle to remove the by-products of energy expenditure that interfere with insulin’s actions.”

Glenn’s team has also established that taking vitamin C capsules (500mg twice daily) can help people with type 2 diabetes by lowering elevated blood sugar levels across the day and minimising spikes in blood sugar after meals. The treatment also has benefits for heart health with blood pressure levels dropping significantly.

Glenn recommends that people with type 2 diabetes talk to their doctor first if they are interested in taking vitamin C alongside current medications.

He is now seeking funding for a large, long-term clinical trial across several sites in Victoria to examine the long-term health benefits of vitamin C supplementation for people with type 2 diabetes.

Associate Professor Clinton Bruce and Dr Greg Kowalski

Research by Clinton and Greg aims to better understand the mechanisms behind the body’s chemistry to uncover new therapies to manage both type 1 and 2 diabetes.

They are examining how the pancreatic hormones – insulin and glucagon – coordinate glucose, lipid and amino acid metabolism across the liver, muscle, fat tissue and kidneys.

“When this system is functioning properly, it allows us to maintain appropriate blood glucose and lipid levels, day in, day out,” Greg says.

“However, when there is a breakdown along the line, high blood glucose levels can develop, potentially causing diabetes and its related complications.”

The team are particularly interested in the role that insulin resistance (inefficiency of insulin action) and hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels) play in the evolution of diabetes, cardiovascular and fatty liver disease. These conditions are strongly linked. “Given the liver is the major metabolic hub of the body and is highly responsive to metabolic hormones, we have a strong interest in liver metabolism,” Greg says.

“In better understanding these functions, our research aims to help in the development of new therapeutic strategies for both type 1 and 2 diabetes.”

  • Dr Greg Kowalski in the lab

Associate Professor Michelle Keske

Michelle’s latest research is examining why people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to get heart failure and the impact that blood flow may have on the inability to exercise appropriately.

Her research focus into type 2 diabetes and metabolism is motivated by a desire to reduce the burden of cardio metabolic diseases in the community.

“Type 2 diabetes is a major health problem that runs in my family. I conduct research into the causes and complications of type 2 diabetes because I have witnessed first-hand how this disease affects the individual and the family unit as a whole,” she says.

“When we think of diabetes, we think of it as a blood sugar problem, which it certainly is, but a lot of people are unaware that 80 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes will die of a heart attack or a stroke.

“It’s more than just a blood sugar problem, it’s actually a form of cardiovascular disease.”

Michelle’s team has specific expertise in the use of ultrasound to capture and study images of the heart, large blood vessels and capillaries.

“Research is key to understanding what aspects of nutrition and – particularly in my field – exercise, might help people live longer and healthier lives,” she says.


Click here for more information about Deakin IPAN’s research into physical activity and nutrition or follow us on Twitter @DeakinIPAN