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Researcher and physician Yoshifumi Saisho is on a mission to change diabetes treatment in his country. His research on the physiology of type 2 diabetes in Japan versus the U.S.A. makes an exciting case for his argument.

Listeners will be treated with an explanation of his model-shifting findings and learn

  • How beta-cell numbers in our pancreas connect with diabetes development,
  • What these beta cells indicate when non obese patients in Japan develop type 2 diabetes at the same proportion as their more obese American type 2 counterparts, and
  • Why Yoshifumi Saisho argues for a paradigm-shift view of diabetes from a glucose-centric disease to a beta-cell–centric disease.

Yoshifumi Saisho is a researcher and physician with the Department of Internal Medicine at Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo. When he began his career, he decided he wanted to be a doctor that would treat the entire patient rather than just one part.

He also was focused on preventative aspects of disease. These two motivators still dominate his work and he shares compelling evidence about diabetes manifestation that centers on beta cells. He says that pancreas tissue samples have shown that beta-cell mass is reduced by around 50 percent in patients with type 2 diabetes. Also significant, patients in Japan who develop type 2 diabetes are not as obese as American diabetics but both share this reduction in beta cells.

How does this happen and why does it matter? Well, it’s our beta cells that make insulin. He explains his theory for why this lower beta-cell number happens.

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When we eat excess carbs, he says, beta cells release insulin to take care of it.

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Humans don’t increase beta-cell numbers under excess sugar, so each beta cell works harder to release more insulin. Therefore, he thinks that these beta cells die off from exhaustion and overwork. Preservation of beta cells must be important and this is why he’d like to change how the Japanese view diabetes.

Japanese treatment for diabetes views it as a glucose-centered problem but he argues that if health professionals shift to seeing it as a beta-cell disease, treatment and prevention will be more successful.

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He hopes to appeal to the concept of avoiding wastefulness. We need to apply conservation language to our physical body’s resources as well, he adds, and utilize nutrition and fitness facts as tools for reducing beta-cell workload. In other words, beta cells are a limited and precious resource in our body.

For more about Yoshifumi Saisho’s work, he suggests googling his name.

Here are Yoshifumi Saisho’s recent two papers and the website for ResearchGate for more information.

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