Thursday, October 06, 2005

Diabetes and Obesity

I'm diabetic. I'm also fat. I make no bones about either of these facts. However, I often get annoyed by the juxtaposition of the two. Today's Independent is a case in point:

Unlike other health threats, the death of tens of thousands of people is inevitable. The World Health Organisation warned in a report yesterday that the number of lives claimed by diabetes in the UK is set to grow by a quarter over the next decade, driven by rising obesity and inactivity.

They are referring, however, to type II diabetes - previously known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. So called, because in a type II diabetic, the body's ability to use insulin is impaired, and in many cases can be treated by diet alone, or with the help of tablets. Only in certain extreme cases is the actual injection of insulin required.

I, on the other hand, am a type I diabetic - previously known as insulin dependent. That's because my pancreas has quite simply decided not to produce any more insulin for me. How thoughtful of it. Now, my weight may well make my diabetes harder to control, as some of the problems of insulin resistance that affect type II diabetics are present within me. Even if I were to be of perfect size, however, I would still have diabetes, and have to go through the process of at least four daily injections and regular blood testing.

You can therefore understand why I'm slightly annoyed by the constant linking of obesity and "diabetes" in the press. My diabetes has nothing to do with my weight. And it's a problem that causes a lot of ignorance. When I was first diagnosed, my parents were constantly asked by the ignorant "but he will grow out of it, won't he?". No, I won't, unless the trials of Islets of Langerhans transplants become effective and widely available. I won't even have the luxury of being able to control my condition with tablets, or diet alone.

Ignorance of such a fundamental matter doesn't help people take diabetes seriously either. And the Independent is contributing to it by failing to make the distinction between diabetes that is genetic and diabetes that is much more attributable to personal choices.