x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Local research key to diabetes remedy

Diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2, is a big and increasing problem in the UAE. From individual habits to medical research, there is work to be done to fight this scourge.

Diabetes is a particular health scourge in the UAE. Both Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune condition, and the lifestyle-related Type 2 diabetes are on the rise here.

As The National reports today, researchers in Abu Dhabi say that the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes has doubled in the past 10 years, though they are unsure why. Clearly, there is a compelling need to find out.

The condition also used to emerge either in the preschool years or at puberty, but now it seems to occur at almost any stage of life.

For Type 2 diabetes, the principle causes are no secret: poor diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. But knowing the main causal factors has failed to help prevent nearly one in five UAE residents being diagnosed with the disorder, a figure that is projected to rise as the population ages.

The latest research from overseas suggests a connection between sleep deprivation and susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes.

The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute study involved a group of men who felt sleep-deprived during the week, averaging only six hours per night. Blood tests showed that they displayed insulin resistance, where the body fails to respond correctly to the hormone. But if they caught up on their sleep on the weekend, the insulin resistance decreased significantly.

But what is not obvious is whether this would translate directly to the UAE. At first blush, it should. The UAE is already known as a nation of night owls - a trait exaggerated during Ramadan - so those findings would seem to have particular relevance in the Emirates.

The question is whether other factors in life here might outweigh the sleep deprivation studied in the Los Angeles project. Researchers in the United States and Britain typically study people with western lifestyles.

Sleep patterns here tend to involve late nights, as in the US, but also midafternoon naps, in common with many countries with hot climates.

The nation has already has a firm footing when it comes to diabetes research, with institutions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai specialising in the diagnosis, management and prevention of the disorder.

Part of the focus for researchers and health clinics has to be assessing local lifestyles to see if the sleeping patterns highlighted in the US will also apply in the UAE.