YouDocs, 7-29-14: Bionic pancreas may be available in near future

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Q: My 10-year-old daughter has Type 1 diabetes. It's been a struggle to stabilize her blood sugar levels. Now I hear they're developing a bionic pancreas that will make things a whole lot easier! Can you explain? -- Marianne D., Manchester, New Hampshire

A: As you know, in Type 1 diabetes the immune system mistakenly kills off the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This means you can't keep blood sugar levels under control without an outside supply of insulin. Since no one knows (yet) how to stop that attack, researchers have focused on creating an artificial pancreas. The available devices that come closest to this are a combo of two machines that are connected to your body -- a continuous glucose monitor that tests blood sugar levels, and a pump that delivers insulin. You have to calibrate the equipment frequently, so they're not for everyone.

The so-called bionic pancreas is a step forward from that, but it's still experimental. It measures your glucose level, then supplies both insulin (to lower glucose levels) and glucagon (to raise them) in order to provide a smooth blood sugar balance. The device is made from a glucose monitor, two pumps -- one for insulin and one for glucagon -- and an iPhone that runs the software to figure out how much insulin or glucagon you need at any time.

Recently the bionic pancreas was tested on 32 teens and 20 adults, and the results were good. The next phase of testing has started, evaluating 40 adults using it for 11 days. The goal is to conduct more studies next year that can lead to Food and Drug Administration approval.

Until then, ask your daughter's endocrinologist if she's a candidate for an insulin pump; many children younger than she get great results with it. And remember, these days kids with Type 1 can expect to live a long and healthy life.

Q: Why doesn't the European Union allow imported U.S. beef? -- Jerome T., Scranton, Pennsylvania

A: We're glad you asked that question! It gives us a chance to tell you ONE MORE BIG REASON to limit red meat (beef, lamb, pork and processed meats) to one four-ounce serving or less a week.

You know that regularly eating saturated fat and the protein found in more than 4 ounces of red meat ups the risk for some cancers, heart disease and dementia. What you may not realize is that most mass-produced meat in the United States has been injected with hormones and antibiotics. Imports of U.S. meats are banned by the EU, plus Russia, Australia, Canada, China, Taiwan and most recently Japan.

The FDA-approved hormones used to fatten up livestock (without having to feed them additional food) include recombinant bovine growth hormone, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone! As for the antibiotics (used to let the animals fatten up, not just prevent disease)rage, 200 pounds of this meat a year.

According to the FDA there's no connection between eating meat raised on growth and sex hormones and the current obesity epidemic, or with the sharp increase of reproductive cancers in the U.S. Since 1950 they're up 55 percent for breast, 100 percent for prostate, and 120 percent for testicular cancer. And they don't see any connection between the 60,000 Americans who die each year from antibiotic-resistant disease and antibiotics used in raising industrialized beef. But a lot of countries aren't buying it.

The good news is that you can eat meat that hasn't been stuffed with drugs if you buy "no hormones added; no antibiotics used" meats, poultry and eggs.

(Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com)

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