A friend who is living with diabetes recently forwarded me an invitation to listen to a webinar (internet seminar) titled, "Reversing Diabetes types 1.5, 2 and 3." I was intrigued enough by the title to sign up to participate.
"Reversing diabetes" is, of course, a catchphrase similar to "miracle cure," and should have served as a warning (see the FDA's comments at 6 Tip-offs to Rip-offs: Don't Fall for Health Fraud Scams.) There simply isn't a "type 3" diabetes -- and the concept of type 1.5 diabetes isn't officially recognized by the powers-that-be as an "official" type.
I found the author's biography on-line: "Dr. [name deleted] received his M.B.A from Utah State University in 2004 and received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Utah in 1999. In 1995 [he] received his B.S. in ACS Chemistry from Weber State University and has been an Adjunct Professor at Weber State University for six years. He has worked extensively in the nutritional supplement field for over 15 years. [he] has done many years of nutritional product research development, Q/A, and manufacturing operations." He doesn't have an MD, DO, or other medical degree, however.
The webinar was sponsored by a chiropractic organization, which raises the obvious question: why in the world would chiropractors be interested in reversing diabetes?
I had a sneaking suspicion that the webinar wasn't going to useful or factual to people living with diabetes.
The very first slide was the giveaway: It mentioned a name I'd never heard of, but which I looked up while the presentation was underway. The name, which I shall not mention, was a brand name for a product that "harnesses nature's most powerful ingredients known to balance dysglycemia and insulin resistance. Contains patent pending IsoChrom is the next step in chromium glucose metabolism. Contains biotin, zinc, chromium, vanadium, gymnema sylvestre, cinnamon, fenugreek, mulberry, hesperidin and more in a gelatin capsule. The FDA has not evualated [sic] these statements and yo [sic] are taking this food supplement at your own risk.)"
By the third slide, titled "Discover Nutrition and Herbs Value to Patients and Clinicians in Reversing Dysglycemia and all the Associated Chronic Diseases," it was clear: this was going to be a sales pitch for herbs and presumably for the concoction mentioned in the first slide.
Someplace around the seventh slide, we learned the pseudofact that "Type 3 is the newest [type of diabetes]." The slide proposed that insulin is produced by the brain (and I had thought it came from the beta cells of the pancreas). The presenter then explained that type 3 diabetes is also referred to Alzheimer's disease [AD] -- which he explained results from brain insulin resistance. And insulin deficiency and insulin resistance are mediators of AD-type neurodegeneration. Wow. (I must point out that "Type 3 diabetes" isn't generally recognized as the same thing as Alzheimer's. As another author stated, "There is no justification for classifying Alzheimer's disease... as type 3 diabetes mellitus.")
The presenter then went through a discussion of biochemistry, and an even longer litany of herbs, minerals, and what-not that he indicated have some evidence that they might influence diabetes. He didn't present any data to support any of the claims, nor did he present any evidence that these products could indeed "reverse" diabetes.
Near the end of his presentation, there was a slide with the intriguing title "Plants Had The Tools all Along" -- and the presenter stated the obvious: "Herbs have to be used together with diet and exercise." Amazingly, he never got around to discussing the concoction that was mentioned in the first slide. Nor did he ever discuss AD, nor any possible effects of herbs on AD, after announcing that AD was T3DM.
This presentation bordered on the edge of medical fantasy, disguised as an educational presentation. Who was the target audience? I presume it probably was chiropractors who might be looking to promote themselves as experts in diabetes. But the presentation simply wasn't legitimate. The concepts were half-baked. The data to support the claims was missing.
How can we spot a suspicious presentation? Here's some of things I look for:
- The presentation's title should be reasonable. Use of terminology such as "miracle cure" or "reversing diabetes" should cause alarm bells to go off.
- The presenter's credentials should be clearly stated, and should be relevant to the topic at hand.
- Any new or unexpected concepts must be referenced to the scientific literature.
- If the author has a vested interested in a product that's mentioned, the conflict of interest should be clearly stated.
- The sponsoring organization should be clearly identified, and appropriate for the topic under discussion.