Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sweet Heart Disease

Sugar is sticky. Not just on your fingers, it's sticky in your bloodstream too. The higher your blood glucose concentration rises, the more glucose sticks to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells. It's easy to measure how much this has happened and it gives a pretty good idea of how sugary your bloodstream has been over the last few months. It's called the HbA1c value. Wouldn't it be fun to get together a few thousand people and measure how sugary their blood is, then wait and see how many die in the next six years? Well, even if you don't think so, the EPIC researchers thought it might be, so they did just that.

If you filled a room with 100 people, all with a HbA1c below 5% in 1997, and then invited the same 100 people back for a chat in 2003, how many empty places would there be at the second meeting? The answer is that about 4 people would be absent through having died. If you had a separate meeting arranged for people who's HbA1c was over 7%, how many empty seats might there be after that same six years? The answer is about 19. Having high sugar in your blood is very bad news. Those are the figures for men, the approximate numbers for women are 2 deaths in the low HbA1c group and 25 deathsin the high group. It's a simple relationship, the higher the HbA1c, the worse the outcome.

What did these people die of, associated with their high sugar levels?

Heart disease appeared to be quite important.

Did the researchers check cholesterol levels? You bet they did! Nil, zero, zilch association with heart disease.

So I'll stick with my six eggs for breakfast and pass on the toast and marmalade.

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