In 2003, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that “the incidence of diabetes has escalated to epidemic proportions.” 23 million Americans now have diabetes, of which 17 million have been diagnosed and the remaining 6 million are “ticking time bombs” waiting for some health calamity before recognizing the disease. Another 16 million have pre-diabetes, which dramatically elevates their risk for eventually deteriorating into full blown diabetes.
Undiagnosed diabetics may not receive treatment until something serious happens, like blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, or gangrene sets in. Experts now estimate annual US health care costs for diabetes at $132 billion. Each year in America another 650,000 cases of diabetes are diagnosed. 120 million people around the globe suffer from diabetes. While 20% of Americans overall will develop diabetes in their lifetime, African Americans are twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to Anglos, and Latinos are even more prone toward diabetes than African Americans. All groups are at greater risk for developing diabetes as we age.
A Little History on Diabetes
Around 1500 BC, medical scribes in both India and Egypt described a condition of great thirst and urination. They treated this condition with high fiber wheat grain, a valid therapy which can be scientifically explained today. Over 3000 years ago, a treatment recommended for diabetes in India involved intensive exercise. Another ancient and good idea. It was the Greek Aretaeus around 100 AD who first called the disease “diabetes” after the Greek word for “siphon”, noting all the excessive urination that diabetics experience. 
Some of the earlier “medical technicians” would diagnose and track the severity of the diabetes based upon how sweet the patient’s urine smelled.
The more sugar in the urine, the more uncontrolled the disease and the greater the likelihood of suffering severe complications in the eyes, kidney, heart, and nerves. Thomas Willis, physician to King Charles II of England in 1670 was torn between commenting on the obvious increase in diabetes among his wealthy patrons eating lots of sugar and the wealth being made in the sugar trade by his boss.
Importance of Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle
In 1898, Elliott Joslin, MD emphasized the importance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle to control diabetes. Dr. Joslin’s work became the foundation for the world famous Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Canadian researchers Frederick Banting and Charles Best first isolated insulin in 1921. Two years later, researchers Banting and John Mcleod, who provided the laboratory, were awarded Nobel prizes for their work on insulin and diabetes. Demand for insulin was so high that a large pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, was required to meet the world’s need for insulin. Since 1923, insulin research has brought various refinements, with the biggest breakthrough coming in 1978 when DNA engineering allowed researchers to manufacture human insulin, which has since become the gold standard for Type 1 insulin dependent diabetics.[tweetthis]90% of these diabetics are overweight, which is a huge risk factor for diabetes. [/tweetthis]
In Joslin’s era of 1898, the average life expectancy for a 10 year old diagnosed with Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes was 1.3 years beyond diagnosis. In the post-insulin era of 1945, that same 10 year old diabetic had a life expectancy of 45 years beyond diagnosis. Even more progress has been made since then. But the experts all agree that the complications and life expectancy of the diabetic is directly related to how well blood glucose levels are regulated.
Categories of Diabetes
Let’s make sure that we have the proper terminology for diabetes
Disease of high urine output, possibly caused by lack of the pituitary hormone, anti-diuretic hormone.
(means “siphoning sweetness”) metabolic disease of too much glucose in the blood as caused by:
1) Lack of insulin output, type 1 diabetes, juvenile diabetes, Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM)
2) Ineffective insulin, meaning there is enough insulin but it does not effectively force glucose into the cells, type 2 diabetes, adult onset diabetes, Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM)
Other forms of diabetes mellitus that are somewhat rare include:
Which may be caused by pancreatic diseases, hormone disturbances, drug reactions, or malnutrition.
Which is glucose intolerance brought on during pregnancy.
Only about 5% of diabetics qualify as Type 1, which is caused by destruction of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (beta cells). Possible causes of the beta cell destruction include an auto-immune attack (the body’s own immune system ganging up on the pancreas) triggered by a food allergy, especially from milk. Infants under 4 months of age who were fed cow’s milk have a 50% greater risk of developing Type 1 diabetes than infants who are breastfed. When diabetes is in the family, cow’s milk may need to be avoided in newborn infants.
The remaining 90%+ of all diabetics are Type 2, non insulin dependent. And 90% of these diabetics are overweight, which is a huge risk factor for diabetes. We will talk more about this later. While all diabetics can glean some valuable information from my articles, the focus of this article is for Type 2 diabetics. All diabetics need to continue working with your physician while incorporating the recommendations from this book into your lifestyle.
 . Jackson, K., Today’s Dietitian, vol.5, no.8, p.23, Aug.2003
 . Mitchell, J. (ed), RANDOM HOUSE ENCYCLOPEDIA, p.726, Random House, NY, 1983
 . Thomas, M., et al., THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO LIVING WITH DIABETES, p.413, Macmillan, NY, 1999