Diabetic volunteers need threatens health care study

  • May 31, 2010
diabetes testA St. Michael’s Hospital doctor and researcher trying to save millions of Canadians from an early death, blindness and organ failure can’t rustle up enough volunteers to complete a study.

Dr. David Jenkins needs 400 people with type two diabetes — the kind people normally get over the age of 45, but is increasingly showing up among overweight young people. After months of advertising, Jenkins has recruited fewer than 70 volunteers to take on special diets and monitor their health.

If Jenkins can’t find volunteers he will have to return over $3 million in research grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canola Council of Canada.

“One is honour bound,” Jenkins told The Catholic Register. “You can’t waste money that you’ve been given.”

In addition to saving lives, diabetes research can help Canada’s health care system from going bankrupt trying to treat a projected 3.7 million Canadians with diabetes by 2020.

Churches could be part of the cure, said Jenkins.

“I hope that churches will be sources of health both for the soul and for the body  — if they’re interested, which I hope they would be,” he said.

Volunteers would participate in research aimed squarely at preventing a doubling of diabetes cases in the next 20 years. The projected increase in diabetes would result in a four-fold increase in female heart disease, doubling of heart disease among men, skyrocketing demand for renal transplants and doubling of diabetes-related blindness.

People are too stressed out and too busy to volunteer even for something that will be good for them, said Jenkins. And if they’re too busy to volunteer, they’re probably not leading a healthy lifestyle, he said.

“As people get stressed out they have bad lifestyle habits, and the diseases we’re trying to treat become even more difficult to cure,” Jenkins said. “The social manifestation of the disease is the reason why we can’t recruit (volunteers).”

There’s nothing surprising in Jenkins basic thesis that a better diet and exercise can control diabetes and prevent complications down the road. However, Jenkins’ studies could establish just what constitutes a better diet and the biochemical mechanisms involved in improving the health of diabetics.

“What is a better diet? Therein lies the small print,” explained Jenkins. “If these studies are successful, we hope we will have made a major stride in both prevention of the disease and prevention of complications from the disease.”

With an aging population packing on pounds with abandon, the Canadian Diabetes Association estimates that diabetes will cost Canada $17 billion per year by 2020. Canada has gone from 4.2 per cent of the population with diabetes in 2000 to 7.3 per cent in 2010. We’re heading for 9.9 per cent with diabetes in 2020, according to a 2009 report from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

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