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Highs And Lows

Diabetes Testing

Comparing Meter Accuracy

Anyone who has been trying to control his or her diabetes for more than a few days often gets disappointed with checking blood glucose levels. Our disappointment is sometimes not how high those levels go but how erratic our meters and test strips seem to be behaving.

Meter accuracy is a pain — an emotional pain that can be more than the physical pain of lancing. Just which meter systems are accuracy?

That’s probably the question that people newly diagnosed with diabetes ask me the most. And now for the first time we have the beginning of an answer.

In my 15 years of following diabetes developments I haven’t seen a single scientific comparison of the blood glucose meters that we have to work with. Until now.
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Diabetes Testing

A New Talking Meter

At least 38 companies now offer us meters that we can use to test our blood. I list and link them in my web page “Blood Glucose Meters,” Part 14 of the On-line Diabetes Resources.

Almost all of those 38 companies sell their meters in the U.S., and most of them have several different meters for sale here. So why would we ever need a new one?

For one thing, meters are getting better. While they still aren’t good enough, higher standards of accuracy and precision may be coming soon, as I wrote here a year ago.

Instead, meter manufacturers focus on adding features. Many of these features are just nice bells and whistles. But one feature is essential for some of us.

Since loss of vision is all too common a complication of diabetes, many of us need a blood glucose meter that will talk to us. Not only people who are totally blind but the much larger number of us who have limited vision need a meter that they can listen to rather than look at.

Actually, we have had talking meters for many years. Diagnostic Devices in Charlotte, North Carolina, has offered two different Prodigy meters for at least five years, as I indicate on my “Blood Glucose Meters” web page. Diabetic Supply of Suncoast in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, offers two different versions of the Advocate blood glucose meters that talk. Last year Omnis Health in Natick, Massachusetts, became the third company to currently offer a talking meter, the Embrace Blood Glucose Monitoring System.

And now here is BioSense Medical Devices in Duluth, Georgia, with another talking meter, the Solo V2. We all the choices already available, does anyone need the new meter?

The Solo V2 Talking Meter Continue Reading
Diabetes Medication

Drug Interactions

My friends at Diabetes in Control have just updated their valuable list of drugs that can cause us problems. The URL is

They sent their list to me in their weekly email, but it’s also available on their website as a PDF. The list, which shows both the generic and brand names, includes those drugs that can cause us to have either low blood glucose levels or  high blood glucose levels. It also includes a short list of other drugs that can mask hypos.

This is a good list for all of us to keep handy.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

Diabetes Diet

Potato Poison

Many people with diabetes have already stopped eating potatoes for several reasons. Now we have one more.

Some varieties of potatoes raise our blood glucose level faster and higher than just about anything. The glycemic index of a baked russet potato is 111 on the scale where glucose equals 100.

A cup of hashed brown potatoes has 46 grams of carbohydrate. That’s more than a whole day’s ration of carbohydrates for people following the best known very low-carb diet for people with diabetes.

About 80 percent of a potato’s carbohydrate comes from starch, a white, tasteless, and odorless powder. But starch is cheap, and adding salt and fat can make it palatable.

Since hashed brown potatoes and french fries count as a vegetable, the potato is America’s most important vegetable crop. More than 30 percent of the vegetables that we eat are potatoes, and we eat 142 pounds of them each year.

Maybe people with diabetes eat fewer potatoes than other Americans. I hope so. But everyone who eats lots of potatoes not only indulges in a very high glycemic and very high carb food but also is at risk of potato poisoning.

Potatoes are a member of the deadly nightshade family. This family includes Jimson weed, mandrake, belladonna, tobacco, as well as potatoes and tomatoes. While potatoes, tomatoes, and other members of the nightshade family are important food sources, they are often rich in alkaloids, which are toxic to humans and animals and can range from being mildly irritating or fatal, depending in part on how much we eat. By affecting the nervous system, this poison causes weakness and confusion. Some people are especially sensitive to foods in the nightshade family and experience allergy-like symptoms from the alkaloids. These alkaloids protect the plant from attacks by microbes and insects by dissolving their cell membranes.

But this poison hasn’t discouraged us from eating lots and lots of potatoes. Cooking them long enough and avoiding the green parts and sprouts reduces their toxicity. But when people eat foods in the
nightshade family, the alkaloids can create pores in the lining of the gut. This increases intestinal permeability, and if enough of the alkaloids gets into our bloodstream, this destroys the cell membranes of our red blood cells.

The large amount of potatoes that we eat is what makes them a concern to Loren Cordain, who has been has been a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University since 1982. His new paper, “Consumption of Nightshade Plants, Human Health and Autoimmune Disease Implications,” interested me so much that I bought a copy for $21.29. It was worth the money.

We eat somewhat less tomato products, and relatively few bell peppers, chili peppers, and eggplants, some of the other food crops in the nightshade family.

“When the gut becomes ‘leaky,’ it is not a good thing,” Dr. Cordain writes, “as the intestinal contents may then have access to the immune system, which in turn becomes activated, thereby causing a chronic low level system inflammation.” The increased intestinal permeability, particularly in people with diseases of chronic inflammation — like type 1 diabetes — and diseases of insulin resistance — like type 2 diabetes — particularly troubles Dr. Cordain.

His conclusion is “to eliminate or drastically reduce potato consumption, and for autoimmune and allergy patients to be cautious with the consumption of tomatoes, chili peppers, and eggplants.”

Until recently, I had a weakness for hashed brown potatoes, as I have written here. Even though I knew that potatoes are both high glycemic and high carb, that wasn’t enough to stop me. But knowing that they are poisonous did.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

Diabetes Testing

Making Blood Glucose Testing Fun

If you didn’t think that testing your blood glucose could be fun, you probably haven’t tried Bayer Diabetes Care’s new Didget blood glucose meter.

I hope that you aren’t as poor a speller as I am. If so, you might have thought that Bayer named its new meter for the word that we use to denote a finger or a number. Both meanings make sense when we use fingersticks to test the level of our blood. But most people spell that word “digit.”

The Didget is the first blood glucose meter that connects directly to the Nintendo DS and DS Lite gaming systems. Lots of American kids have an Nintendo, but unfortunately I’m not a kid, so I don’t.

Bayer just sent me at no charge their newest meter, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared for sale on March 12. Unaccountably, however, the company forgot to include an Nintendo, so I’m still not having any fun testing my blood.

Bayer’s New Didget Meter

But if you have an Nintendo in your home as well as a child with diabetes, this could be the way to go. It awards points that kids can use to unlock new game levels and customize their gaming experience.

Kids ages 4 to 14 are the target audience. The Didget comes with a full-length Nintendo adventure game, “Knock ‘Em Downs World’s Fair.” You can even use the Didget meter separately without using an Nintendo, if you don’t have one yet. My guess, however, is that this wouldn’t be as much fun. Soon it will also connect to Bayer’s Didget World, a password-protected Web community where kids can create their own page and spend points that they earn when they consistently monitor their levels.

The Didget meter uses Bayer’s Contour test strips and takes just 5-seconds and 0.6 microliters of blood. It is now available for purchase in the United States through,, and The suggested retail price is $74.99. If it gets your child to test his or her blood glucose more often, this is cheap fun.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.


Education Helps in A1C and Weight Control

Your best help in reducing your A1C and your weight could be to work with a Certified Diabetes Educator and a nutritionist. That’s the implication of a study that Issac Sachmechi, M.D., presented at the annual meeting and clinical congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in Boston today.

Health Central sent me to the meeting, where I interviewed Dr. Sachmechi this morning. He is clinical associate professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, New York.
Dr. Sachmechi presented his poster and abstract, “Impact of Diabetes Education on HbA1C and Weight Reduction at the meeting.” He told me that he designed the study and involved the chief resident and one of his colleagues. Certified Diabetes Educators and nutritionists provided the diabetes education.

Dr. Sachmechi Supports Diabetes Education

Don’t people with diabetes generally get diabetes education? “No,” Dr. Sachmechi replied. “In many areas of the country people with diabetes don’t get nutritional advice or see CDEs. The CDEs show them how to do home glucose monitoring, how to prevent hypoglycemia, the importance of exercise, and other things that are needed for the care of diabetes.”

But doesn’t it cost a lot of money? “I don’t think so,” Dr. Sachmechi replied. “Certainly, a session with a CDE costs less than a session with a physician!”

The study group of 150 people included people with type 2 diabetes who their primary care physician referred to two CDEs and a dietitian. A control group of 150 people with type 2 diabetes didn’t get to see either a CDE or a dietitian.

The researchers compared the A1C and weight of the study participants before and then six months after the study. A1c went down 1.02 percent in the study group but only 0.59 percent in the control group. The average weight went down 2 pounds in the study group but only 0.71 pounds in the control group.

“This is one of the few studies demonstrating a measurable improvement in diabetes control and weight loss solely due to diabetes education and diet counseling in a municipal hospital with limited resources,” Dr.Sachmechi concluded. Dr. Sachmechi’s study worked with people with diabetes who are largely uninsured and generally have poor health literacy. My conclusion is if diabetes education works there, it can work for you too.

Dr. Sachmechi tells me that he is now working on the impact of support groups on the impact of A1c and other measures of diabetes control. Do support groups help us? That’s what he hopes to find out, and I will let you know here the results of that study.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.