How the right diet can control diabetes and reduce its massive economic costs

Studies based on Mediterranean diet, combined with exercise, have proved groundbreaking in managing type 2 diabetes. Image: Flickr / Moyan Brenn

Studies based on Mediterranean diet, combined with exercise, have proved groundbreaking in managing type 2 diabetes. Image: Flickr / Moyan Brenn

Chris Proud, South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute; Grant Brinkworth, CSIRO, and Manny Noakes, CSIRO

More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from type 2 diabetes. The condition is already rampant in several Western countries and numbers are now rising fast in emerging economies, such as India and China. But the right kind of dietary changes could dramatically reduce the impact of the illness on both patients and economies.

Alongside the impact of the disease and its associated complications on the lives of patients and their families, diabetes’ cost to health-care systems is huge. In Australia, for example, the total economic impact of type 2 diabetes is estimated at A$10.3 billion, while in the United States it is likely to exceed US$174 billion.

There are many ways to beat diabetes or reduce its impact; the key is making changes to your diet and lifestyle that you then follow for life. Indeed, lifestyle modification – eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly – is the cornerstone of any effective diabetes-management plan.

More than sugar

For decades now, the general recommendation has been for everyone to cultivate a high-unrefined-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. More recently, reducing sugar intake, even though it is one of the most popular carbohydrates, has been receiving a lot of attention. But a healthy eating plan for diabetes is not just about cutting out sugar. And scientific opinion is now turning in favour of lower carbohydrate diets – for everyone.

While excessive sugar will no doubt increase blood sugar levels, especially if you’re having sweetened drinks, any source of carbohydrate will have the same effect. This includes anything that contains flour, rice or pasta, as well as fruit and potato.

Burger and chips

Eating foods like this will only increase the risks of diabetes and its associated complications. Josephine Stenudd/Flickr, CC BY

Carbohydrate foods with a low glycaemic index (GI), such as oats and legumes, on the other hand, will dampen down the blood sugar response. That’s why careful carbohydrate selection is now recommended for everyone, especially people who have type 2 diabetes.

New data from high-quality nutrition research now strongly suggests that restricting carbohydrates even further, while moderately increasing protein and unsaturated fat intake, may have further benefits for controlling type 2 diabetes and reducing the risk of complications.

What we did and found

Based on these ideas, our research teams have been studying the effects of a “Mediterranean” diet – which has low carbohydrate, high protein and includes a lot of vegetables, nuts, lean meats and healthy fats – in combination with an exercise plan. We wanted to see how much we could improve the health of people with type 2 diabetes.

We assigned 115 adults with type 2 diabetes to one of two weight-loss programs. One group followed a very low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet for 24 weeks. The other had a higher carbohydrate, but still low GI, diet.

Early results have been ground-breaking; our diet is better at improving diabetes control compared to traditional weight-loss diets. But its most striking benefit is that it reduces the amount of medication someone with diabetes has to take by half. This reduction was three times greater than for people who followed the lifestyle program that incorporates a traditional high-carbohydrate diet plan.

Our very low-carbohydrate diet also improved blood cholesterol profile by increasing the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and decreasing triglyceride (blood fat) levels to a greater extent than the traditional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Both diets achieved similar reductions in bad (LDL) cholesterol levels – often a concern with some low-carbohydrate diets.

There’s more

Variation of blood glucose levels through the day is emerging as a strong independent risk factor for diabetes complications. In our study, the very low-carbohydrate diet was also more effective in reducing the number and levels of blood glucose variations over a 24-hour period.

In 2008-09, of the estimated A$1,507 million spent on the health care of diabetes in Australia, A$490 million was spent on diabetes-related medications. Our findings suggest that, by implementing a lifestyle program incorporating a healthy low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-unsaturated-fat diet at a national level, the country could save up to A$250 million annually through reductions in diabetes-related medication alone.

This does not even account for any additional cost savings that could be generated from the marked improvements in diabetes control and patients’ well-being. It is these costs – related to the complications of diabetes and patients’ ability to contribute to the economy – that account for most of the economic impact of type 2 diabetes.

Our research shows evidence from the latest nutrition science can guide dietary approaches to tackling one of the most serious global health challenges of this century.

The Conversation

Chris Proud is Theme Leader, Nutrition and Metabolism at South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute.
Grant Brinkworth is Senior Research Scientist in Human Nutrition at CSIRO.
Manny Noakes is Professor of Nutrition & Research Director for the Food and Nutrition Flagship at CSIRO.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

How to send a photo from Pluto (and 8 other cool New Horizon facts)

All you need to know about  getting images of Pluto back to Earth

Interplanetary MMS explained. 

We’re playing a vital role in NASA’s New Horizons mission, the first ever attempt to visit Pluto. Learn more about this historic exploration, and our other astronomical feats, at #CSIROSpace.

Talk about a long distance call.

Some time tonight, around 9:57pm AEST, we’re expecting a world-first ‘phone call’ from the outer edges of the solar system.

The team at our Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre (CDSCC)  will be the first to hear from the New Horizons spacecraft as it completes its nine-and-half-year journey to the solar system’s most famous dwarf planet, Pluto. NASA and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are the lead agencies on this multi-million dollar project, but our CDSCC facility will be integral in communicating with the far-flung vessel.

Scientists have never before had an opportunity to study Pluto and its surrounding moons (Charon, Hydra, Nix, Styx and Kerebros) with such detail and precision. Even images from Hubble have shown us little more than blobs. Using an immense array of sensors and cameras, New Horizons will send us the most comprehensive images and data from the icy dwarf planet the world has ever seen. This information will not only shed new light on Pluto’s mysteries, but it will also help us better understand the origin and evolution of Earth and our planetary neighbours.

Before New Horizons reaches its mission objective, let’s find out a little more about this spacecraft and the amazing science powering it to Pluto.

  1. A long time ago: New Horizons (NH) blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on the 19th January 2006: the same year the X-Box 360 was released in Australia, the Beaconsfield mine disaster hit the headlines and Peter Brock and Steve Irwin passed away.
  2. A powerful name: The probe is powered by a single radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which transforms the heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium dioxide into electricity. Can you guess which dwarf planet plutonium-238 is named after?
  3. An interplanetary pit stop: NH made a quick detour to Jupiter in 2007. During this interplanetary layover, the probe used the opportunity to test some of its scientific instruments, before using the gas giant’s gravity to give it a 14,000km/h slingshot towards Pluto.
  4. Short but sweet: It’s only going to be in range of Pluto for 5 hours, capturing immense amounts of data, before it starts a new mission. After Pluto, NH will venture on to the mysterious Kuiper belt.
  5. A close-ish encounter: NH will duck between Pluto and its neighbouring moon, Charon, before it skims approximately 12,500 kilometres above Pluto’s surface, unleashing its suite of scientific observations.
  6. Me first: Our CDSCC will be one of the first places on Earth to receive the data from New Horizons, in binary form (a massive cache of 1s and 0s)… which is great if you can read the Matrix.
  7. Whispers from space: By the time it reaches Earth, the radio signals from New Horizons are 20 billion times weaker than the power of a watch battery. These are the signals captured and processed by CDSCC’s giant antenna dishes before being sent to waiting mission scientists.
  8. Six of the best: Alice, LORRI, Ralph, PEPSSI, SWAP and Rex. No, it’s not the next team of contestants on The Voice – these are the names of the six scientific instruments mounted to New Horizons. The instruments are equipped to collect a vast array of information, and include imaging spectrometers, particle detection instruments and a passive radiometer.
  9. Students riding shot-gun: There is also a plus-one tagging along: a dust particle counter created by a group of students from the University of Colorado, which puts pretty much every other student group student project in the history of the world to shame.

Remember to check out #CSIROSpace for the latest updates!

Volcanic discoveries create Sydney’s hottest new suburb

The newly discovered peaks off Sydney.

A map of the newly discovered volcanic peaks off Sydney, showing their depth relative to the surface.

We’ve found a cluster of ancient hotheads just east of the Sydney CBD – forgotten relics of an era long passed. And no, it’s not the clientele at Bondi Icebergs on a Sunday afternoon.

Our new ocean explorer, RV Investigator, has discovered four extinct volcanoes 200 kilometres off the coast of Sydney, hidden under almost five kilometres of ocean. The calderas are estimated to be over 50 million years old, putting even the most seasoned Sydney socialites to shame.

Investigator was actually in the area on other business – searching for the nursery grounds of larval lobsters – when it came across the cluster. The ship is constantly mapping the sea floor as it travels, opening up a previously undiscovered and unknown world. Our previous research vessel could only map to 3000 metres, missing important geological features like the calderas. Investigator can map the ocean to any depth (although it’s yet to find James Cameron).

Being the handy little workers we are, we’ve created a 3D flyover of the volcano cluster for your viewing pleasure:

But the volcanoes aren’t the only hot new talking point in Sydney’s far-East. According to the chief scientist for the voyage, UNSW marine biologist Professor Iain Suthers, the team were amazed to discover an eddy off Sydney that was a hotspot for lobster larvae and other tiny critters, at a time of the year when they were not expecting them.

This discovery turned the previous understanding of juvenile commercial fish species on its head.

“We had thought fish only developed in coastal estuaries, and that once larvae were swept out to sea that was end of them. But in fact, these eddies are nursery grounds for commercial fisheries along the east coast of Australia.”

Check out some of the samples  the team collected (a few of which wouldn’t look out of place on the dancefloor of the Eastern at 3am):

We can’t wait to hear about more amazing discoveries from the Investigator as it continues its travels. For all the latest on our Marine National Facility, including a virtual tour, check out our website.

Unfortunately, we can’t yet recommend the far-East as a solution to Sydney’s housing crisis. We hear they don’t even have a Gelato Messina out there yet.

Five tips for NASA when preparing to encounter Pluto, by Aussie kids

The Pluto Nine

The Pluto Nine: Rubie, Jayda, Anthony, Sam, Sophie, Sudistee, Ryan, Kelan and Caitlin.

NASA has spent the last nine years navigating New Horizons towards Pluto. Within days, the first high resolution images will be beamed back to earth giving the world its first real insight into what makes the tiny ‘planet’ tick. But for now, not even NASA can claim to know very much about it. So we thought we’d speak to some of Australia’s youngest and brightest minds to see what they think.

In summary, here are five ways NASA can prepare for an encounter with Pluto.

  1. Before you get to Pluto give them a call, and let them know you’re coming: According to our ‘young astronomers’ there is a man on Pluto with a phone, and he may be able to tell you how cool or fun it is before you get there.
  2. Definitely pack a hairbrush: You never know when you’ll need to look your best. And you might just really like brushing your hair. Oh, and bring toys.
  1. Be prepared to eat a lot of cheese: Right now we don’t know exactly what Pluto is made of. One theory is that ‘like the moon’ it could be made of cheese. Hopefully a nice Brie or Camembert.
  1. Be aware of Pluto’s emotional state: Our young scientists have warned that Pluto may be dealing with some hurt feelings. Since it was forcibly removed from the planets’ friendship ring, Pluto is believed to be “upset, angry, stressed, left-out and unlucky”.
  1. It’s never too late to say sorry: NASA might consider apologising on behalf of planet Earth. #plutoisaplanet

The 3D titanium Terminator: come with us if you want to print

Our 3D printed Terminator arm: able to withstand any metal crusher (Cyberdyne microchip not included).

By Emily Lehmann

Arnie is back. Yes, you better believe it: the Terminator is out once again in full 3D glory… but he’s not just on the big screen.

After watching the fifth instalment Terminator Genesys over the weekend, we got to thinking: could we build our own Terminator cyborg, only better? The answer is, of course we can – we’re CSIRO!

Down at our underground resistance base Lab 22 we’ve started working on a 3D metallic Terminator-inspired skeleton. The new model, dubbed the Ti-1000, is made of super strong and lightweight titanium, so it can take down mortal Cyberdine enemies with greater speed and agility.


Our key advantage is that our Ti-1000 models are 100 per cent customisable on demand, so there won’t be any Skynet showdown they can’t handle.

We can respond to specific (state of) emergency market needs by 3D printing tailor-designed precision parts with the right qualities for the job. In fact, our sinister looking Terminator hand and pelvis were delivered with rapid response from concept to creation, in under a week!*

The pelvis was easy, but the living tissue over the endoskeleton is a work in progress.

The pelvis was easy, but the living tissue over endoskeleton is a work in progress.

We also have top-notch facilities at our doorstep meaning that we can continue to tweak and enhance our Terminator assemblage.

We recently took our parts, among other (more serious) top secret industrial designs, to the Australian Synchrotron where we used the imaging and medical beamline to create precisely detailed 3D images.

Zooming in on these pieces can tell us a lot about our products and the processes we’re using to create them. For example, it can help to expose any faults in the end-product so that the manufacturing process can be improved. After all, consistency is about ensuring that every Ti-1000 model has the same chiselled Schwarzenegger features.

Improving the process will lead to better performing, higher quality and more consistent results for Cyberdyne Systems manufacturers every time.

If ever there’s a Terminator 6, then we’ve got the next generation model covered. But until then:

P.S. While some of this blog may be science fiction, there are real bona-fide stories coming out of our Lab 22 and 3D printing facilities, such as a world-first 3D heel implant and a horse-orthotic. You can find out more, including how to do business with us, here.

*Unfortunately, we can’t send them back in time… yet

Five ways Indigenous science is helping us understand the world around us


Morgan Appleby and Juliet De Valter are getting a hand-on science experience with the ASSETS program

Did you know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been employing scientific methods of data collection, such as observation and experimentation, for tens of thousands of years – long before western science came to Australia?

As the world’s oldest continuous living cultures, Indigenous Australians are renowned for their historic and enduring high-level science inquiry skills.

Which is why this summer, we’re inviting Australia’s brightest Year 10 Indigenous students from across the country to the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS). They’ll be able to share and learn more about their cultural heritage while experiencing hands-on science with some of Australia’s top science institutions such as CSIRO, James Cook University, the University of Adelaide and the University of Newcastle.

Because we want to inspire the next generation of Aboriginal scientists and Torres Strait Islander scientists – and because it’s NAIDOC week – we thought we would share five of our favourite projects that rely on Indigenous scientific knowledge.

Click on a photo below to open up our image gallery to learn more.

After the success of last year’s ASSETS program we have expanded the intake from one group of 30 students, to three groups accommodating 100 students.

The nine-day summer schools will be held in Adelaide, Newcastle and Townsville during December 2015 and January 2016. There’s no cost for students to attend with return airfares, accommodation and meals all provided.

Applications are now open on our website.

ASSETS is part of a broader Indigenous science, technology, engineering and mathematics education program managed by CSIRO in partnership with the BHP Billiton Foundation. 

GovHack: All your data are belong to us

The hackers are coming to abuse our data in the best possible way. Image:

The hackers are coming to abuse our data, in the best possible way.

Groups of skilled hackers are congregating in cities around Australia, and they are hell-bent on forcing government data to do their bidding. These mercenaries (oh yes, there’s monetary incentive) are coming together to pick-apart, dismantle and unravel carefully curated data from Australia’s biggest government agencies – our data included.

Before you worry too much, we should let you know we’re excited to be targeted by this group. In fact we are offering up our data, willingly, to these hackers. They are, after all, participants in this year’s GovHack competition.

The annual GovHack event kicks off this evening. The competition pits teams of hackers from Australia and New Zealand against each other, to see who can re-imagine Government data in the most fascinating, interesting and positive ways.

Fear not, the GovHacker's are looking to use government data for good, not for ill.

Fear not, the GovHacker’s are looking to use government data for good, not for ill.

For some the term ‘hack’ may not be positive. You may automatically think of large security breaches or even a derogatory term for a lazy professional. But for someone at GovHack, a hack is a clever solution to one of life’s problems.

Every year the Government collects and publishes huge quantities of data across its many different agencies. Because of the sheer volume of information it isn’t easy to get this data into the hands of the community. And even when it is available, most people wouldn’t find much joy in going through so much information.

This is where GovHack comes in. The competition encourages the best and brightest to find ways of scooping this information together and spitting out something new and improved; perhaps in the form of a new application, a video game or an interactive map?

For our part we are letting the hackers loose on a range of data-sets including Science Image, AuScope Portal, Atlas of Living Australia, and the Data Access Portal to name a few. You can see the full list on the GovHack website.

While we are fond of this precious information, we can’t wait to see the how the GovHackers will redeploy and reinvigorate this data. In our experience some of the best science happens when clever people turn data on its head and come up with something new.

Before this year’s teams get stuck into our data, we thought we would share three of our favourite ‘CSIRO hacks’. It should come as no surprise that our teams have nailed some incredible solutions over the years, so hopefully these stories will inspire others:

  1. 3D mapping is awesome. Video Games are awesome. After we mapped the Jenolan Caves with our Lidar device – known as Zebedee – we worked with IntoScience to create a video game. Using 3D environments, mapped from real world locations, we were able to re-imagine the mapping data as an immersive interactive game that student can explore.


    3D mapping of the Jenolan Caves.

  2. Our Land and Water team had compiled an extensive data-set detailing bushfire movement patterns in Australia. This information was publically available and emergency services could theoretically use it to help with their bushfire response. But these data-sets were not user-friendly. Enter Spark. This application combines historical data for predicting bushfire patterns with surface maps and current meteorological information. This lets users simulate how bushfires will spread or predict the likely location of future bushfires.
  3. You could argue that our most ridiculous and brilliant ‘hack’ was turning the ‘failed’ observations of astronomical black holes, into a technology that would become a standard for over 5 billion devices worldwide. You may have heard of it? Most people know it as WiFi.

Are you taking part in GovHack 2015? Take a look at the data libraries we’ve made available for the celebrating science this year. You should be able to create a solution as momentous as WiFi, right? No pressure!


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