This Won’t Hurt a Bit

The letters we print in our “Letters to The Editor” section are among the most passionate and controversial letters you will read anywhere. If you don’t want to get your passions aroused, then maybe you should skip this section.

In this month’s “Letters to the Editor,” we hear complaints that not enough progress has been made in the search for a diabetes cure. We could toss all the upsetting letters into the circular file. But we don’t. We print them because it is important for us to hear the voices of all people with diabetes.

Which letters do you remember more? To which voice are you more attracted: the sage voice of reason and calm that looks for compromise, or the voice of the agitator who dreams of trying to move society toward change? We have heard from both ends at different times in history, be it FDR and his Fireside Chats or Susan B. Anthony encouraging woman to demand the right to vote.

I just received a letter from a reader who says, “One doesn’t want balance, one wants the truth.” The same reader also told us not to report conflicting views, only to say, “We don’t know,” if the jury is still out. This is tantamount to having us decide what does or does not merit discussion, and I don’t think that it is what most of our readers want.

We let you decide what is important for you by providing you monthly selections from the entire spectrum of work being done about diabetes. Last year we presented you with almost 500 articles.

Letters We Received

Three letters this month seek to blame “Big Business” for the lack of a cure. A reader writes, “They will never find a cure for diabetes because the disease is too lucrative for companies. Look at all the money the companies make who sell tests strips, supplies.

These kinds of statements bring up more questions for me:

  1. Aren’t “they” really us? (For example, our friends work at these companies and we buy their products.)
  2. If we blame “them,” aren’t we blaming ourselves?
  3. By this logic, is the lack of a cure our own fault?

Then there is the Congressionally appointed Diabetes Research and Working Group who, in 1999, said the main problem with the state of diabetes research is the “extreme lack of funding.” I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1974. That same year the National Commission on Diabetes to the Congress of the United States was created by the National Diabetes Mellitus Research and Education Act (Public Law 93-354) and signed by the President on July 23, 1974. The Commission submitted its report to Congress on December 10th 1975. The report said, “In 1974 the prevalence of the disease is increasing rapidly by about 6% per year.”

Another paragraph states, “Because of the serious and widespread health problems associated with diabetes, expanded research programs are needed. Work must be accelerated not only to prevent and cure diabetes, but also to develop better methods for treating the disease and its complications.”

This sounds surprisingly similar to the more recent DRWG report. For the last 25 years, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has spent approximately $3.9 billion on diabetes, while the National Institutes of Health has spent approximately $6.5 billion.

In 1976, NIH spent $42 million on diabetes. In 1999, it spent $457 million. Yet, the DRWG still claims the problem is the extreme lack of funding. I think the problem with the state of diabetes research is more than just a lack of funding. Something bigger than more money is needed to foster the cure. With very little money, Banting and Best, in their garage with a dog, discovered insulin. Some say this has been the greatest innovation for diabetes to date.

I’ve reprinted the important questions that Joan Hoover posed in her article last September for all of us to ponder openly (see below).

Last night my six-year-old daughter asked me, “Daddy, does eating sugar cause diabetes?” “No,” I replied. “Well, then what does?” she asked. “That’s a great question dear, but nobody knows,” I said.

She looked me straight in the eye and asked sternly, “Why doesn’t anybody know?”

I hope that some day, we will be able to tell her.

Questions Joan Hoover posed in her September 2000 article

  1. Why are diabetic children three times as likely to be left-handed?
  2. Why do Native Americans have such a high incidence of type 2 diabetes, yet nearly no members have type 1?
  3. Why do most children get diabetes between the ages of 9 and 12?
  4. Why do most children get diabetes between the fall months of September and November?
  5. Why do most children in Australia get diabetes in the spring, yet their spring is in September and October, which is the same time that children in the Northern Hemisphere are being affected?
  6. Why are outbreaks of type 1 diabetes often found in geographic clusters?
  7. Why do some people with type 1 diabetes get few or no diabetic complications, while others are affected by nearly all complications? Often there is very little relationship to a history of normalized blood glucose levels.
  8. Why do North Dakota and Finland have the highest incidence of diabetes, per capita, in the United States and Europe, respectively?
  9. Why is obesity considered the cause for type 2 diabetes when less than 1/4 of those who are obese have diabetes and 20 percent of those who have type 2 diabetes are slim?

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