Chemistry professor publishes year-long diabetes research

State University of New York distinguished teaching professor of chemistry and chair of the chemistry department Wendy Pogozelski recently published a paper titled “Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: Critical review and evidence base.” Pogozelski has been working on the paper for a year and a half with co-author Richard Feinman from SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a number of other contributors.

This work has been part of an ongoing effort of Pogozelski’s to find topics more engaging to her students. Pogozelski explained that she understands that without some anchor to latch onto, it can become just one series of reaction after another.

“My whole original goal was just then to kind of make my classes interesting,” she said. “So I think that the issues that I’ve been able to bring into the classroom have really enhanced my teaching.”

While no students assisted in working on this particular paper, Pogozelski noted that students will have opportunities to work on other research in the future.

“I would like to get students more involved in this aspect of research,” she said.

After being diagnosed with adult onset type 1 diabetes in 2007 and receiving dietary advice that didn’t sound right for her, Pogozelski began looking into a diet better suited to her. As a biochemist, she wanted to understand the science behind various diets.

She began work on her paper with Feinman in 2013. Their findings were summarized in 12 points of evidence that supported a carbohydrate-restriction approach. According to Pogozelski, studies have shown that carbohydrate restriction can aide in the management of blood glucose levels for many with type 2 diabetes, reducing or nullifying the need for medication.

While this approach has been shown to be successful, there is no one size fits all approach to proper diet and diabetes management. “I really try not to give advice,” Pogozelski said. “My goal is to give people information that they can use to help them make their own decisions.”

The paper focuses on carbohydrate restriction as a way of combating diabetes––most significantly type 2. As of 2010, diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. As obesity rates have doubled over the past 20 years, so has the number of type 2 diabetics. The authors recommend that health agencies conduct hearings on a carbohydrate-restriction approach to treating diabetes.

The topic of nutrition can be addressed from a variety of viewpoints and falls directly in line with Geneseo’s focus on interdisciplinary topics.

“I really would like to be part of bringing these things into other classes or working with people in other disciplines to work on these initiatives,” Pogozelski said.

Pogozelski will be giving a TEDx Talk on April 4 on the topic “Changing Paradigms in Nutrition.” She will also be speaking during the all-college hour on April 8 about what research is saying about carbohydrates and fats, with more of a focus on connecting to a student audience.