Readers suggest alternatives to girl's 5 insulin jabs a day

PHOTO: Readers suggest alternatives to girl's 5 insulin jabs a day

Buckwheat green tea, lingzhi mushroom and even negative-ion clothing.

These were some of the alternative treatments for diabetes that The New Paper readers suggested over the weekend.

They had read our report last Saturday on Corrinne Chua, four, who has Type 1 diabetes.

But while their suggestions were based on good intentions, doctors said there is no evidence these remedies actually work.

The World Health Organisation says Type1 diabetes is not preventable and patients will need insulin for the rest of their lives.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps break down glucose to release energy for the body to use.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's inability to produce insulin due to damage to the pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body either resists the effects of insulin or does not produce enough. It can be triggered by poor diet and the lack of exercise.

The latest National Health Survey shows that more than 11 per cent of Singapore's population, or one in nine adults, suffers from it.

Businessman Victor Lim, 54, was one reader who was moved by Corrinne's plight.

Corrinne has to endure five insulin injections every day.

Mr Lim was diagnosed in 2007 with Type 2 diabetes and he claimed that buckwheat tea helped him control his condition .

Buckwheat is a plant cultivated for its triangular seeds, which are used as animal feed or made into a flour for human consumption, as in pancakes or cereal.

Mr Lim's company, Buckwheat Healthcare Products, has formulated two blends of buckwheat green tea and he contacted us to offer the product to Corrinne.

Medical experts urged caution.

Three of them advised Type 1 diabetics not to replace their insulin jabs when trying out alternative treatments.

Dr Ho Su Chin, who has been an endocrinologist for more than 10 years, said the alternative remedies are not evidence-based.

Their benefits are anecdotal and have not been proven by scientific studies.

Also, they are not treatments for Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes based on guidelines set out by Singapore's Ministry of Health or any international diabetes association.

Said Dr Ho: "Type 1 diabetics are insulin-dependent and withdrawal of insulin therapy would result in a medical emergency."

Another product, recommended by reader Khin Maung Tint, is ganoderma, also known as lingzhi mushroom.

He attached a book excerpt which referenced a study showing that ganoderma can protect the pancreatic cells of mice.

Yet another suggestion was to wear negative-ion clothing that is being sold here through multi-level marketing.

An online retailer of such clothing said negative ions can help purify blood, rejuvenate cells and improve the immune system.

Examine remedies closely

Dr Kevin Tan, the vice-president of the Diabetic Society of Singapore and a practising endocrinologist, said that, in general, claims about alternative remedies, which fall into the herbal and supplements category, may have some truth in them.

But the scientific basis may not be very robust and there may be interactions with other prescription tablets.

As for negative-ion clothing, its effect on diabetes is harder to comprehend and believe, so patients should be sceptical of such claims and examine them carefully.

Corrinne's mother, Madam Gillian Pua, 37, said she was touched by and thankful for the concern shown by readers.

She said she will consult Corrinne's doctor about the recommendations.

But she will not stop the injections.

Corrinne's doctor, Associate Professor Lee Yung Seng, a senior consultant at the National University Hospital's paediatric endocrinology and diabetes division, said: "If the patient is considering trying alternative treatment, they should inform their doctor.

"The treatment for diabetes remains medication with healthy lifestyle choices such as diet and weight control, and exercise."