With diabetes on the rise, Canadian doctor awarded for advancing treatment


A Canadian doctor has been awarded for his decades-long research on gut hormones that has advanced the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and intestinal disorders.

Dr. Daniel Drucker, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and senior scientist at Sinai Health’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, and two other colleagues on Wednesday were named laureates of the 2021 Canada Gairdner International Award.

Read more:
Coronavirus patients with diabetes more likely to die from the virus, study finds

“We’ve been studying these hormones for 35 years and it’s now apparent that they can become very powerful,” Drucker, 64, told Global News in an interview.

“We’re really in the midst of a brand-new era of intervention using our body’s own hormones to help us with chronic inflammatory diseases.”

Story continues below advertisement

Drucker and his colleagues Joel Habener of Harvard Medical School and Jens Holst of the University of Copenhagen discovered hormones called glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1 and -2) that control the levels of insulin and glucagon, which work together to maintain healthy sugar levels in our blood.

Their research has led to the development of multiple types of treatments, specifically for the more common Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 per cent of total diabetes cases – and is becoming increasingly common in children – in Canada.

Click to play video: 'Is diabetes a side effect of COVID-19? Doctor answers top coronavirus questions'

Is diabetes a side effect of COVID-19? Doctor answers top coronavirus questions

Is diabetes a side effect of COVID-19? Doctor answers top coronavirus questions – Mar 15, 2021

Currently, one in three Canadians is living with diabetes, according to Diabetes Canada. And cases are rising with an increased intake of high-calorie, processed foods, Drucker said.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, which is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

Story continues below advertisement

If left uncontrolled, diabetes results in consistently high levels of blood sugar, which can lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputation.

Diabetes is also among the top 10 causes of deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Drucker said that while a cure for diabetes seems “very unlikely,” it can be kept in check and reversed with diet, weight loss and medication.

‘If we invest in the science, I have no doubt that we’re going to see tremendous advances in both types of diabetes,’ said Drucker.

Photo credit: Sinai Health Foundation

“It starts with our cities in that we can build opportunities for people to get out and walk and live healthy lives and not have to constantly search for a store with healthy produce or live in a food desert where only unhealthy choices are available,” he said.

Drucker said schools can also play a role in emphasizing the importance of physical education and exercise to curb the uptick in diabetes.

Story continues below advertisement

“So I think there’s a lot we can do at multiple levels, not just as individuals but as a society, to bring ourselves to a healthier point.”

Read more:
Canada lacks cohesion over obesity as a COVID-19 vaccine priority

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the award ceremony will be moved online later this year.

Nicknamed the “baby Nobels,” one in four recipients of the Gairdners go on to win the prestigious Nobel prizes.

Each year, seven awards are handed out by the Gairdner Foundation and the winners each receive $100,000 in prize money.

“I think it’s just a wonderful recognition of the work that I have been privileged to carry out with so many students and trainees and collaborative colleagues, not just in Toronto, but all around the world,” said Drucker.

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Volunteers needed for Type 2 diabetes study'

Health Matters: Volunteers needed for Type 2 diabetes study

Health Matters: Volunteers needed for Type 2 diabetes study – Nov 9, 2020

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.