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It's a Type 2 Life
It's a Type 2 Life

San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetes

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Iron Man is a Type 2 Man?

Sometimes I wish I were a little less plugged in to the diabetes scene.

I receive regular news updates from various institutions and companies that are researching causes—and potential cures for—diabetes. It helps me spot trends and try to connect the dots when it comes to both my own diabetes self-management and what nuggets I can pass on here.

Now comes news that has me a bit dismayed. Danish researchers are reporting that iron may be a causal factor in type 2 diabetes. (Here’s a link to a report on their research.) It seems that too much iron in the blood eventually can disrupt pancreatic beta cells’ insulin production, leading to the disease.

Here’s my dilemma: For years when I went to donate blood the intake nurses would all ooh and aah over how iron-rich my blood was. They’d take a blood sample from my finger, then drop it into a solution and watch it plummet quickly to the bottom, like a concrete-booted Mob victim. I was told this speed was a good sign.

However, a few months ago, my doctor told me I had low-grade anemia, possibly the result of giving blood too often. He recommended that I start taking a daily iron supplement and then test in a few months to see if it is making a difference.

What to think here? Was my previous iron richness a factor (along with several others, of course) in my developing type 2? If so, does it continue being a factor in the severity of the disease? Can I lessen the effects of type 2 by lessening the presence of iron?

It would be ironic if my slight anemia could be an aid in managing diabetes. But it gets more complicated: My recent experiment with a very low-carb diet has produced some nice results, taking me from a 9.5% A1c to a 6.5% A1c over a three-month period. Now I have to track very carefully to see if my recovering iron levels are going to have a noticeable effect on those numbers.

Sigh. My first take is that this just adds to my chores list.

On the other hand, diabetes is a strange disease in that so much of how it affects us is in our own hands. That fact makes many of us type 2s walking, talking amateur experts  on the disease. So, tracking these newer numbers and experimenting with different things to see how those numbers are affected will be an interesting pursuit.

I’ve already fired off a letter to my doctor about this. I’m not expecting any definitive answer from him, I’m just saying, “Hey, this looks interesting. Keep it in mind as we collaborate on my treatment.”

He’s a good guy who enjoys it when a patient does his own sleuthing—one more reason to stay abreast of this damnable, aggravating disease. 

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Tags: Insights , Science

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About the Author

Bay Area resident Patrick Totty was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July, 2003.