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St. Michael's researcher unable to get volunteers to test new diets for diabetics

One of Canada’s leading nutrition researchers is having trouble recruiting volunteers for clinical trials and wonders whether people in big cities such as Toronto are just too busy to participate in medical research.

Toronto, May 27, 2010

Dr. David Jenkins Dr. David Jenkins

Dr. David Jenkins, the St. Michael’s researcher who developed the glycemic index, needs 400 people with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes to test whether certain diets can prevent complications such as heart and kidney disease. So far he has fewer than 70 volunteers.

“As cities become more fast-paced and more noisy in terms of the happenings of life, volunteerism goes by the wayside , even when it’s a personal health issue,” said Dr. Jenkins, director of the Risk Modification Centre at St. Michael’s.

“People have less time. They spend most of their time on the Don Valley Parkway making their way home. They don’t feel they wish to give up any further time.”

Declining numbers of volunteers for clinical trials could be a “looming disaster” for medical research and evidence-based medicine, Dr. Jenkins said.

Volunteers are needed for three studies. Participants in two short-term studies will be randomly assigned one of two diets for three months: a high-fibre diet with whole grain products or a low-glycemic index diet of foods that release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, including lentils, beans, temperate-climate fruits such as apples, oranges and berries, and whole-grain bread enriched with canola oil (a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids).

The goal is to compare how each diet affects blood glucose levels. These are the first studies to investigate the role of canola oil and beans in diabetes management.

A longer-term study involves 160 patients with arterial damage who will be followed for three years to see whether the diets can prevent or treat heart or kidney disease in diabetics. MRIs will be used for the first time to assess arterial disease.

How can people volunteer?

Volunteers must:

  • live in the Toronto area
  • be in good health
  • take tablets for diabetes (excluding insulin)
  • want to improve their blood sugar levels through diet modification

There are no age, gender or other demographic restrictions. Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age – and is becoming more common in children because of obesity – but is most often seen in people over 45.

Call the Diabetes Research Group at 416-867-7474.