By Rosemary Black
Reviewed by QualityHealth's Medical Advisory Board
Two new tests could allow you to assess your pre-diabetes risk and monitor your blood sugar, all with just a puff of breath.
Pre-Diabetes Breath Test
Someday soon you may be able to accurately predict your diabetes risk without a single finger prick. That's because a new breath test may tell whether you're likely to develop diabetes, according to an article in Diabetes Forecast.
According to Reuters, an individual drinks a glucose solution labeled with carbon-13, a short-lived radioisotope. The amount of exhaled carbon dioxide labeled with this carbon-13 is then calculated by a breath analyzer.
"This novel breath test method may assist in recognition of pre-diabetes or early-stage diabetes in at-risk persons without the need for invasive blood sampling, thus making it an attractive option for large-scale testing of at-risk populations, such as children," the scientists wrote in an article in Diabetes Care.
Blood Sugar Breath Test
While the test is not yet ready for prime time, in the future, a portable, lightweight device that tests the breath to calculate blood sugar may replace traditional blood glucose meters as well as finger sticks.
Concentrated amounts of particular chemicals in exhaled breath may be tied to blood sugar levels, according to the study reported in a recent issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. The chemicals include acetone, propane, methanol, and 2-pentyl nitrate.
More About Pre-Diabetes
Tens of millions of Americans have pre-diabetes and many don't know it, says Stuart Weinerman, MD, chief of the division of endocrinology at North Shore/LIJ Health System.
It's a very common ailment in the United States. "Pre-diabetes occurs when people don't use insulin as efficiently as they should," he says. "The person's body can't keep up with the high demand for insulin, and he winds up developing diabetes eventually."
The options for those with pre-diabetes who want to try to stave off full-blown diabetes often have to do with making lifestyle changes. Often, the diet is modified and an exercise program put in place with the aim of weight reduction. "The weight loss may come either through a monitored program or more aggressive intervention for morbidly obese patients," Weinerman says.
Aggressive measures include gastric bypass surgery or lap-band surgery, he says. "Either can reduce the chances of having the pre-diabetes progress to full-blown diabetes," Weinerman explains.
When a person with pre-diabetes loses weight, the chances of having a stroke or a heart attack lessen, he says. "Losing weight means that you improve many metabolic abnormalities that put you at risk for both of these conditions," Weinerman explains. "There's a fair amount of evidence that better diet and exercise may improve the risk a person runs of developing some cancers."
Once pre-diabetes progresses to full-blown diabetes, a person is headed down a path to a variety of complications that range from eye problems to kidney problems to cardiovascular disease. "These complications are a major cost to society and they are so preventable," Weinerman says.
"Breath can reveal blood glucose levels." Diabetes Forecast. Source: American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. April 2011.
"Breath test may screen for diabetes." Published by Reuters and reprinted in Diabetes Forecast. March 2009.
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