Sunday, November 20, 2011


I've been thinking about the JDRF ad, that states that 1 in 20 Type 1 diabetics will die of hypoglycemia. I'm not into arguing statistics, but it got me thinking about diabetes awareness.

So much of what we see in the media falls into 2 stories. The first, well-intended and more common, is that Type 2's caused their own diabetes by overeating and being fat couch potatoes, and that they could reverse it if they'd only stop eating the Twinkies, and get off the couch. This is not only unfair, damaging and depressing to Type 2's, who simply CANNOT be generalized to this picture, but it also creates stigma that crosses over to Type 1's, who, being a small minority of diabetics, get lots of well-meaning but totally irrelevant feedback about their diabetes.

But the second story, also well-intended, bothers me more. That is, Type 1 diabetics are super-achievers, and can do anything anyone else can, with no mention of the struggle and self-discipline that it takes even to live a "normal" life, let alone a super-star life. But we are constantly regaled by stories such as those of Dr. Natalie Strand, who won that race (although she couldn't possibly have done it without the life-saving assistance of her partner), Charlie Kimball, the race-car driver, Nick Jonas, Gary Hall, etc. But these people are the exception, not the rule.

My reaction to both these stories is that they're too Cinderella-ish (eat right, lose weight if you have to, and exercise, and you, too, can marry the prince!!), and not Little Match Girl enough (she died trying). So, even though I viscerally didn't like the JDRF ad, I do know what they were trying to do. There are those that lose the diabetes lottery (and that includes BOTH types), but they remain vague, not translated into the experiences of real people. And no one seems to notice how much work it takes just to live an ordinary life, day to day with diabetes, not to speak of how much harder it is for people who DO develop complications. No wonder diabetes doesn't get the support and funding that breast cancer and AIDS do!


  1. I *would* argue about the statistics, but I don't have access to what are apparently JDRF's sources. They don't mention this "1 in 20" anywhere on their web site AFAICT. Others have mentioned a Cryer, and I found his paper in Diabetes Care, where he says "An estimated 2–4% of deaths of people with type 1 diabetes have been attributed to hypoglycemia". That's not 1 in 20, and I very much doubt it's accurate unless the facts are stretched very thin. But I can't be sure without access to the sources. One of those is in Diabetic Medicine, a Wiley journal -- commercial, no open online access even to ten-year-old articles, and blemished by the profit motive. It's not the journal that most researchers would choose to publish in. The other reference is to a book, thus no peer review at all.

    JDRF just has too long a history of stretching the truth and trying to paper over science instead of educating about it. They were the first I'm aware of to start trumpeting CURE as though it were a realistic goal. They are still trumpeting it despite virtually no progress. They claim they didn't run this ad to get donations, but that's naive. Everyone in business knows that name recognition is key.

    Trying to find the JDRF's citation on this, I ran across a document at

    which says "Twenty years ago when a person was diagnosed with diabetes, it meant early death often
    preceded by loss of limbs, blindness and kidney failure". Say what? I would forgive them for saying that in 1955. But this document, though lacking a date, was published between 2001 and 2004 based on the text. And it's currently linked from

    What reason is there to believe they've taken any more care with their current numbers?

  2. I agree Natalie. From what I have read, the JDRF took the middle of some of the estimates. I personally believe the 1 in 20 is low. Every time I turn around, someone is dying because of a low. I don't think most people get what it is really like.

    As far as people like Charlie Kimball, they are able to afford to get the best of everything that most of us can't afford. I know they have struggles too, but the press doesn't bother to show that stuff.