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How does the corona virus affect diabetics?

A multi-year study diabetes imbalance takes place mainly at the end of winter and at the end of summer, now the corona has added to these factors

By Dr. Aviad Hadar, Angle - Science and Environment News Agency

Food during the Corona period. Photo:
Food during the Corona period. Photo:

The closing of the gyms, swimming pools and classes, along with the forced and extended stay at home during most of 2020, damaged the ability of large parts of the population to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Now, researchers from Ben Gurion University of the Negev report that, in addition to this, among young diabetics (type 2), the very act of avoiding leaving the house is associated with an imbalance in blood sugar.

The research was launched long before the outbreak of the Corona crisis, and focused on the effects of staying at home for a long time due to the heat waves affecting Israel, but now the discoveries have become more relevant than ever considering the routine of closures that the world entered into last year.

Previous studies in the field have focused on In patients who live in countries with a relatively cold climate, where they were found seasonal changes in balancing diabetes levels bthe rainy winter months. The conclusion in these preliminary studies was that the combination between the cold weather and the infections that are common in winter is the main cause of the phenomenon. However, the new Israeli research, published at the beginning of December in the medical journal Primary Care Diabetes, shows that a hot climate also adversely affects the balance of diabetes and the explanation he gives for this is not necessarily related to the cold and infections.

maintain the sugar values

Diabetes is one of the common diseases in western society, with an increasing morbidity rate over the years. In Israel, about 8.4 percent of the population suffer from the disease (8.8 percent of men, and 8.0 percent of women) and it is defined as the fourth most common cause of death, after malignant diseases, heart diseases and infectious diseases.

Among diabetic patients, high sugar values ​​in the bloodstream lead to damage to the large and small blood vessels and thus damage to many important organs, such as kidneys, eyes, heart and limbs. As a result of these multisystem injuries, it is very important to maintain normal blood sugar values.

Physical activity and eating patterns

In the new study (Which was led by Dr. Alon Raphael under the direction of Prof. Aya Biederman, Head of the Community Health Division and Prof. Michael Friger from the Department of Public Health) conducted among patients from the Southern District of Israel, glycated hemoglobin tests (HbA1c, a measure of blood sugar levels in the months preceding the test) of approximately 2,800 Diabetics for about 11 years. As part of the research, about 60 tests were collected over the years and it was discovered that in addition to an imbalance in sugar levels at the end of the winter period, similar to the findings of previous studies, in Israel an imbalance was also found after the summer months.

The new results led the researchers to the conclusion that the climate itself is not the main influence on the sugar values, but the behavior of the patients, including physical activity and eating patterns, which are derived, among other things, from the seasons and the weather.

In Israel, approximately 8.4 percent of the population suffer from diabetes and it is defined as the fourth most common cause of death. Photo: kate – unsplash

"During the summer months, when it's hot day and night, people in Israel avoid physical activity and the result is evident in their sugar levels - even for the most disciplined diabetics," explains Raphael, a pediatrician at Shaare Zedek Hospital. "If this is the result for patients who are highly responsive to maintenance and treatment, it is likely that the phenomenon is widespread and even more extreme in other diabetic patients."

"The study should turn on warning lights for diabetes patients, especially during this period," says Raphael. "Until now, it was known that diabetics are at high risk of contracting Corona, but the consequences of the closures and not leaving the house on their sugar levels are not yet clear enough. From our research, it is possible to estimate the magnitude of the negative impact on diabetics during the corona closures."

The advantage of a university in the desert

"Most developed countries have a relatively cold climate, while developing countries have a warm climate. "Ben Gurion University has the advantage of operating in a western country with a warm climate - this way it is possible to re-examine phenomena that have been tested in cold western countries," says Raphael. "In the field of diabetes, this is even more important, because in the past diabetes was a disease of developed countries, but now the morbidity rates in Africa have increased significantly."

indeed, According to the World Atlas of Diabetes Mellitus, while in Europe and the USA the incidence rates of diabetes are expected to increase by 2045-35 percent by 16, respectively, the incidence rates in Africa are expected to increase by about 156 percent by then.

cope with extreme heat waves

The new study was received with great interest among researchers and experts in the field, and the Israeli researchers have already been invited to a lecture at the prestigious International Conference on Environmental Sciences in Paris (ICGE 2021), not least because more and more countries in the world have to deal with the effects of hot weather on diabetes. "This is the first time that a direct link has been found with a negative effect of hot weather on diabetics, says Raphael. "Europe has recently been dealing with extreme heat waves every summer that have never been seen before, and understanding their effects on diabetics is very important. In addition, as part of the global fight against the climate crisis, understanding the effect of warming on hundreds of millions of diabetics has great medical and economic significance."

"The research should lead to the recognition that the connection between the weather and diabetes also exists in our climate and that diabetics and the doctors entrusted with the diabetes balance should consider the effect of extreme weather on the sugar values ​​of the patients," says Raphael. "In addition, it is now clear that not leaving the house for any reason - rain, heat or closure - has a great significance for the balance of sugar and therefore we must take care of continued physical activity and a balanced diet in order to avoid illness and to improve the quality of life - no matter what the circumstances."