Letters to the Editor
NutraSweet Manufacturer: Beware Internet Rumors, Not Us
I am writing regarding your March article entitled, "The Web Brings Back Sweetener Debate," because it left your readers with the net-albeit false-impression that NutraSweet's safety remains in question.
Fortunately, the mainstream health media has already exposed the recent aspartame email chain letter for the cyber hoax that it is. The health writers for Time magazine (Feb. 8) and the Associated Press (Jan. 29) characterized this article as a health scare. Aspartame was the target this time, but there are many other Internet rumors.
The Internet is full of important, even life-saving health information. But it's also the source of much misinformation. "User beware" might have been a more helpful approach to the story. Reputable and reliable health and nutrition Web sites like www.navigator.tufts.edu can help guide your readers.
30 or 300? I Can't Tell on Human Insulin
I have been reading Diabetes Health since late 1994. I can relate to much of the information that you print. In fact, some of the information printed seems to be exactly what I am living through at the time.
I would like to comment on the use of human insulin. Having been diagnosed in January 1968 at the age of 15, I feel that I am an expert on how insulin affects me. My endocrinologist changed my insulin over to human around 1990. I was taking three shots a day, with no serious insulin reactions. Since I have been on human, I cannot tell when I have a low blood sugar. I must test my blood, which I do four times a day. Prior to the switch I had at least a half-hour notice of a low blood sugar. Now, I can be in the 30s or the 300s, and cannot tell the difference.
Some would say that I have lost this advance notice of a low blood sugar because I have had long-term diabetes. I say the cause is the use of human insulin. I firmly believe that insulin manufacturers are putting profits first.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I believe that Diabetes Health is the finest publication of its kind.
Editor's note: See the story about the human insulin debate on page 22 of this issue for resources to help you get the insulin you need.
If They Build Splenda, I Will Come
Diabetes Health is the best diabetes publication. The other magazines must read your paper then choose the topics from your paper to discuss. I appreciate it from the perspective of a public health nurse, as well as a person who has type 1 diabetes. Thank you for providing us with such quality information.
I live in Santa Cruz, California, and cannot find any store where Splenda (sucralose) is sold. Is this the same sweetener that has been sold in Canada for years? When I called Canada for their natural sweetener approximately two years ago, I was told the company was not allowed to sell and ship it to the United States due to patent laws. This upsets me, because as far as I know there is no evidence that humans, mice or any other animals are adversely affected by the product.
Marian Disperati, RN, PHN
Santa Cruz, California
Editor's note: Only a limited amount of Splenda is currently available, and is reserved exclusively for people with diabetes. To order granular or packet Splenda, go to its Web site, www.splenda.com.
Splenda's manufacturer, McNeil Specialty Products Company, says it currently doesn't have the facilities to make as much Splenda as the market demands, and is building a new factory for that purpose. In about 18 months, McNeil will have finished a new factory in MacIntosh, Alabama, and begin mass production of Splenda.
Readers Point Out Glitch in Y2K Story
Thank you for the story on Y2K. It covers many of the areas that concern people with diabetes.
I do have a small quibble with one sentence. It states, "The problem stems from a programming technique used in the 1980s when computer programmers began signifying dates by using only the last two digits of a year." This problem did not begin in the 1980s. It began with the first program, written back in the 1950s. Back then, people did not have a choice on how to set up dates because the memory available to use in writing programs was very limited.
We have advanced since that time, but we still need backward compatibility, so that new systems can use older products and older ways of dealing with information.
People Need Information, Not Labels
When Scott said in his column, "Don't Call Me Noncompliant," he touched on a major issue in today's treatment of diabetes. I have had type 1 diabetes for almost 36 years, so I have lived through many changes and advances in treatment. (I was diagnosed the same year disposable syringes were invented.)
I feel very strongly that the vast majority of all types of diabetics are undereducated and unempowered in their self-management. The result is that their diabetes is not well-controlled.
I am the vice president of a disease management company which surveys entire diabetic populations within health plans. Our data on some 30,000 diabetics nationwide shows their average HbA1cs run well above 9.5%. Even more significant is that over 80 percent of these diabetics report they do not know what their HbA1cs are!
It is too easy for someone to point at an overweight type 2 diabetic and say, "If he or she only lost weight," or to call a diabetic "noncompliant." This is too simplistic, considering 38 percent of Americans are overweight and only 10 percent of them have diabetes.
Let's get over the negativity created with labeling. Changing our own behavior or encouraging someone else to do so takes truth, mercy and a lot of patience. The lifestyle required with diabetes is not easy for most people-unless you are someone who never changes what you eat, when you sleep, exercise routines and has perfectly flat emotions all the time. What works for each person to have better control is as individual as each of our personalities. Information, like what your news magazine and Web site provide, is a wonderful tool to help people on their journey. Keep spreading the news.
Newport Beach, California
Pycnogenol Still Chasing Away Retinopathy
Editor's note: This letter comes from the man who gave us the scoop on our Pycnogenol story. When he first wrote us, he said that Pycnogenol had cured his retinopathy. We investigated and wrote a story for the March issue, "Leading Prescription for Retinopathy in France Unknown in United States." Here's his reaction to the story, and an update on his retinopathy (or lack thereof).
Let me congratulate you on a great article on Pycnogenol. I loved it, and my friends and relatives thought it was extremely well done.
Also, I really enjoyed your article on herbal supplements. It is very comprehensive and well written. I would love to see a book or two written by the experts you interviewed. Sadly, there is so little research on supplements.
Finally, I had an eye evaluation recently and I have no retinopathy in my left eye. My eye doctor is amazed and said how rare it is to only have it in one eye. I reminded him that four years ago, I was told that I would soon need laser surgery on that eye due to the retinopathy growing. Now, not even a trace.
Keep up the great work. I really enjoy Diabetes Health.
Meter Talks Visually Impaired Through Glucose Tests
As a faithful subscriber, I look forward to receiving each issue of Diabetes Health. Having worked over 23 years for a medical diagnostic manufacturer in the field of developing new diabetes products and services, I rely on your publication as one of the tools for attempting to understand the short- and long-term challenges of living with diabetes. You offer a terrific forum for the exchange of education and experience.
Regarding the April issue, I would like to provide information to supplement the response from Nicole Johnson. The question posed to Johnson concerning Braille identification of insulin bottles has been answered with a product for the visually impaired called the Accu-Chek Voicemate. This product is an easy-to-use, talking system, allowing users to perform both a blood glucose test and insulin identification.
The Accu-Chek Voicemate's clear voice guides visually impaired patients step by step through blood glucose self-testing. It also assures users of the correct insulin formulation quickly and easily.
Thank you for providing an excellent publication.
Too Much Magnesium Can Cause Problems
The article on "How Vitamins Benefit Diabetes Care" was very much appreciated, with one caveat. R. Keith Campbell's suggested daily dose of magnesium, 800 mg. twice per day, is an invitation to what a writer in Women's Health Letter describes as "rectal leakage." Magnesium in small doses certainly has positive benefits, along with the other supplements listed in the article.
La Mirada, California
Response from R. Keith Campbell, RPh, CDE:
Patients need to take a minimum of 400 mg. of magnesium per day. They can take it as a product called Slo-Mag, or take a teaspoon of milk of magnesia two times a day. You will get diarrhea with magnesium if you take too much of it. On the other hand, over 70 percent of patients with diabetes suffer from constipation. Loosening their stools with magnesium doesn't seem to bother them much.
I Helped My Mom With "Cocktail" of Supplements
I just read the April Diabetes Health and found the article on supplements to be very informative. Thank you so much for your education.
I am a fitness writer and consultant in the nutrition industry (mainly sports nutrition). I have been investigating the use of nutritionals and diabetes for about two years now. My mom is type 2, and when she came to visit us from California about two years ago she was taking DiaBeta, Glucophage and insulin. Mom was still having trouble getting under control, and didn't look great. During her trip I set out to research diabetes for the first time. I sent her home with a "cocktail" of supplements, which I hoped would protect her from the damage caused by diabetes. I was surprised to learn that after two weeks she no longer needed to take insulin, and after about two months she was off DiaBeta. Today, at 80 years of age, mom is doing very well physically and mentally, and her blood sugar levels are great.
Thanks again for your work to educate and empower others through Diabetes Health. You are improving the lives of many.
Editor's note: We recommend working with your doctor when making therapy decisions about diabetes.
Better Late Than Never
Our office was moved, so I just found the January issue and read the letter you wrote to Ann Landers. You were very polite and patient with her. I would have blasted her. I hope that your kind letter will change the way she responds to diabetes issues in the future.
I teach my patients to test and inject just prior to a meal, which is necessary with Humalog. I often prescribe insulin pens to make this more convenient. If people use a syringe, I advise putting the syringe in a toothbrush holder to keep it safe.
Thank you for your time and effort in this endeavor. As educators and people with diabetes, we always feel more secure knowing there are people out there who consider our plight. Kudos to the people who spoke up.
S. Janine Blanchard, RN, MA, CDE