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Number of Persons with Diagnosed DiabetesDiabetes Facts and Statistics

Almost 16 million Americans have diabetes, but about one-third of them are not aware of their condition. With the proper treatment and lifestyle changes, many of the possible complications, such as blindness, amputations, heart disease, kidney failure, and premature death, can be prevented or delayed.

The facts about diabetes leave no doubt about its seriousness. The seventh leading cause of death in the United States, diabetes contributes to more than 193,000 deaths each year. * Currently, an estimated 10.3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes—a sixfold increase over the past four decades—and another 5.4 million people have undiagnosed diabetes.    By 2025, there will be an estimated 300 million people with diabetes worldwide.

* When heart disease and stroke are combined (as part of total cardiovascular diseases), diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Fact Sheet: National Estimates and General Information on Diabetes in the United States, Revised Edition, 1998.

The main increase is in Type II, Non-insulin Dependent (also called "adult onset") Diabetes. What is causing this unprecedented growth in diabetes? Diabetes is NOT a contagious disease.

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Diabetes Diseases

Diabetes is an insulin associated condition and can lead to serious complications. Adequate levels of insulin are required for blood sugar (glucose) to get into the cells. A healthy pancreas gland produces a continuous variation of insulin to meet cellular needs. Diabetes is a chronic disorder of the insulin system and is broken down into two types.

  • In Type I diabetes the pancreas fails to produce insulin.Type I is termed Insulin Dependent Diabetes (IDD), and results from failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. In general it occurs at a young age and so is often termed "juvenile onset diabetes"
  • Type II is termed Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes (NIDD), and results from failure of the insulin receptor sites to appropriately accept the insulin produced by the pancreas.

Although both Type I and Type II are interchangeably referred to as "diabetes," they are really direct opposites. In Type I (IDD) the pancreas fails to produce adequate insulin (that is why the individual will be insulin dependant). In Type II the insulin levels are typically elevated above normal and the pancreas is being stimulated to produce TOO MUCH INSULIN. This excessive production is not pancreatic dysfunction, but results because the body is signaling lack of insulin on the cellular level because the cellular receptor sites, or portals on the membranes of the cells, are not working properly to allow sugar into the cell.

Obesity is considered a major factor for Type II loss of insulin sensitivity and approximately 90 percent of Type II diabetics are obese. Despite a high success rate with diet and nutrition, most physicians still often use drugs or insulin. Since receptor site acceptance is the problem and NOT adequate insulin, drugs and/or insulin injections are of limited value and are illogical because they just futher increase insulin levels.


The exact cause of Type I diabetes is unknown, several theories exist, and it is possibly a combination of factors. One theory is that there is an hereditary predisposition coupled with an environmental factor like free radical damage, a viral infection, or an autoimmune system reaction.

Interesting evidence indicates that the nutrient intake of the mother during pregnancy plays a major role as to whether the child will develop Type I or Type II diabetes later in life. Exactly why that happens nobody knows, but research indicates that the defect in the insulin receptors probably occurs from damage brought about by chronic high and low fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels.

In addition, two population studies exist that directly correlate the mother's pregnancy eating patterns with the development of Type I or Type II diabetes in the unborn fetus later in life. Although this information is perhaps emotionally difficult for a mother to believe, it is none the less validly documented.

two studies correlate a pregnant woman's eatting habits with the development of diabetes in her unborn baby In the first study, the data showed a greater than fifty percent drop in the incidence of diabetes with the change in dietary "overeating" patterns of mothers. [Drner et al. "Further Evidence for the Dependence of Diabetes Prevalence on Nutrition in Perinatal Life." Expositions on Clinical Endocrinology. Vol 84. (1984) Pgs. 129-33]

In a second study, pregnant mothers carefully controlled their blood glucose levels and avoided blood sugar levels above normal. This study differs from the first because instead of "overeating patterns," the focus was on "blood sugar level." The correlation in this second study again revealed a greater than fifty-percent drop in the incidence of childhood diabetes in the children whose mothers glucose levels did not rise above normal during their pregnancy. [Drner et al. "Evidence for Decreasing Prevalence of Diabetes Mellitus in Childhood Apparently Produced by Prevention of Hyperinsulinism in the Fetus and Newborn." Expositions on Clinical Endocrinology. Vol 84. (1984) Pgs. 134-142.]

These studies further substantiate the need for prudent eating patterns and proper supplementation during pregnancy (a time when hormone and body changes can often cause just the opposite eating pattern). eatting cured meats as child can damage the pancreas' ability to produce insulin

Another theory is that childhood and adult consumption of high nitrate foods (hot dogs, bacon, ham, and other smoked/cured meats) exposes the pancreas to nitrate free radicals which directly damage the pancreas' insulin production ability. This theory exists because the nitrate compounds found in cured meats have conclusively induced diabetes in studies with animals.

OPINION: The opinion of the editors of this site is that the last ten years of rampant advertising of "low fat foods" is a major factor in the rising rate of diabetes. Statistics show that Americans are fatter and sicker now than they were ten years ago before the "low fat food" craze.

Buyer Beware—low fat foods have four or five different types of sweetners and sugar sources added to give them flavor. This sugar spikes blood levels, causes a slack in energy shortly after eating, and physically results in "lack of hunger satisfaction" and a resultant munching binge on MORE LOW-FAT HIGH-SUGAR FOOD.

Most weight conscious individuals will better manage their condition on six weeks of balanced food intake with NO low-fat foods, than they will on an intense low-fat diet.

Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 5% of all pregnancies but disappears when a pregnancy is over. Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and persons with a family history of diabetes. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for later developing type 2 diabetes. In some studies, nearly 40% of women with a history of gestational diabetes developed diabetes in the future.

"Other specific types" of diabetes result from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses. Such types of diabetes may account for 1% to 2% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Preventing Blindness
Caused by Diabetes

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74 years.

  • 25% of adults with diabetes, or about 1.6 million people, report that they are visually impaired.
  • 90% of diabetes-related blindness is preventable through early detection and treatment.
  • Only 60% of people with diabetes are receiving annual diabetic eye examinations—a key strategy for preventing blindness caused by diabetes.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998.

Associated Complications

Diabetes itself does not kill, but some refer to it as "modern-day leprosy" because the disease complications are a "living hell."

Anyone with diabetes should take serious preventative measures each day to minimize the damage it causes, or in time their body will likely develop many of the following complications:

  • loss of nerve function,
  • tingling sensations and numbness,
  • muscle weakness and loss of limb function,
  • lack of circulation resulting in foot ulcers,
  • twenty times greater than normal chance of gangrene, necessitating complete amputation,
  • impaired heart function is one of the many complications caused by diabetes impaired heart function and two to three times higher risk of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis,
  • alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation,
  • impotence,
  • inability to empty the bladder and incontinence (urinary leakage),
  • eye disease and blindness (currently diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States), and
  • kidney disease requiring daily dialysis sessions.

    This list clearly shows that the diabetic is daily victimized by the disease and will become a permanent and frequent visitor to many medical offices and facilities.

    The following is statistical information related to diabetes caused health problems:

    • Blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20–74 years old. Each year, an estimated 12,000 to 24,000 people become blind because of diabetic eye disease. Early detection and treatment can prevent 90% of this blindness. If all people with diabetes received recommended screening and follow-up for eye disease, the annual savings to the federal budget could exceed $470 million.

    • Kidney failure. Each year, about 28,000 people with diabetes develop kidney failure, and an annual total of nearly 100,000 people with diabetes receive treatment for this condition. Medicare costs for this treatment average $50,000 per person; total Medicare expenditures for treating diabetic kidney failure exceeded $4.1 billion in 1995. Because the rate of kidney failure is rapidly increasing, these costs are expected to rise. At least half of the new cases of diabetes-related kidney failure could be prevented each year. The total first-year cost of treating these preventable cases is about $700 million.

    • Nervous System Disease. About 60% to 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage (which often includes impaired sensation or pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other nerve problems). Severe forms of diabetic nerve disease are a major contributing cause of lower extremity amputations.

    • Amputations. Diabetes is the leading cause of lower-extremity amputations not related to injury. About 67,000 people undergo diabetes-related lower-extremity amputations each year. These amputations currently cost more than $335 million annually in hospitalization costs. Over half of these amputations could be prevented.

    • Complications of Pregnancy. Women with preexisting diabetes deliver more than 18,000 babies each year. For every $1 invested in preconception care for these mothers, $1.86 can be saved by preventing adverse maternal and infant health outcomes associated with diabetes. The rate of major congenital malformations in babies born to women with preexisting diabetes varies from 0% to 5% among women who receive preconception care to 10% among women who do not receive preconception care. Between 3% to 5% of pregnancies among women with diabetes result in death of the newborn; this is more than twice the 1.5% rate for women who do not have diabetes.

    • Poorly Controlled Glucose Levels.Results from a recent study in the United Kingdom indicate that intensive treatment to control glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes significantly reduces the risk of complications more than diet therapy alone. Since 90%–95% of people with diabetes have type 2, these findings can help prevent many serious complications. Similarly, in a national 10-year study of people with type 1 diabetes, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial confirmed that intensive therapy to control blood glucose levels can significantly prevent the onset or delay the progression of eye, kidney, and nerve damage.

    • Cardiovascular disease. People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease or stroke than people without diabetes.


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Diabetes Nutritional Support Strategies

Effective help is available now for people who want to proactively manage diabetes to enjoy life to the fullest. The traditional approach is monitoring blood sugar and taking medications. But now a massive amount of nutrient research validates the effect diet and supplements can have for the body to heal. Lifestyle changes can also make a big difference.

A personal "Take Charge" approach with knowledge, treatment, and prevention strategies will make all the difference. Treatment is aimed at keeping blood glucose near normal levels at all times with minimal usage of drugs. Each treatment program must be individualized to address medical, psychosocial, and lifestyle issues.

  • Treatment of Type 1 diabetes: Lack of insulin production by the pancreas makes type 1 diabetes particularly difficult to control. Treatment requires a strict regimen that typically includes a carefully calculated diet, planned physical activity, home blood glucose testing several times a day, and multiple daily insulin injections.

  • Treatment of Type 2 diabetes: Treatment typically includes diet control, exercise, home blood glucose testing, and in some cases, oral medication and/or insulin. Approximately 30-40% of people with type 2 diabetes will require insulin injections.

Our Diabetes Self-management Program will give you nutrient association information as well as other helpful lifestyles changes for managing the disease. We also include the Center for Disease Control Framework for Diabetes Prevention and Control to help you understand on a large scale what the government is doing.

"Diet is the cornerstone of diabetes care."

Mary Dan Eades, M.D.,
Medical director of the Arkansas Center
for Health and Weight Control in Little Rock

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Related Links

National Institute for Diabetes and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Diabetes Foundation

American College of Rheumatology