Advances in Diabetes Treatment


Sharon Bergquist, MD    

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Progress in diabetes treatment used to take decades. The first effective treatment for diabetes, insulin, entered the market in the 1920s. It took 30 years for a new treatment, sulfonylureas, to be introduced in 1955. Another 40 years later, in 1995, metformin became available.

Since then, the story has changed remarkably. From the late ’90s on, the increase in new diabetes medications has been exponential. Particularly in the last decade, we’ve seen several new diabetes treatments emerge.

Specifically, there’s been an explosion of non-insulin therapies, including:

  • GLP-1 receptor agonists
  • DPP-4 inhibitors
  • SGLT2 inhibitors

GLP-1 Receptor Agonists

When we eat food and it reaches the small intestine, the small intestine responds by releasing GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1), a type of hormone called an incretin that tells our bodies we’re full. GLP-1 receptor agonists are non-insulin injectable medications that reproduce and enhance the effectiveness of GLP-1. This extra punch of GLP-1 lowers blood sugar, suppresses appetite, and causes weight loss.

On top of tracking your diet and blood sugar, regular exercise is a key part of managing your diabetes. And while any exercise is better than none, certain activities have specific benefits for people with diabetes.

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