Did you see the parody by CrossFit about Coke with the slogan “Open Diabetes”? Then the hashtag “Sugar Kills”. Nick Jonas, who has type 1 diabetes, shot back a response that they didn’t distinguish between type 1 and type 2. Then the CEO of CrossFit said that type 1 can turn into type 2. Not true. See story at:
And if you continue to read the article by Jay Bittman, be sure to see the correction at the end. The research did NOT say sugar causes diabetes, as Jay Bittman seems to want us to believe.
You gotta love Nick Jonas. Besides his obvious and wonderful talent, he has worked hard for JDRF and now is a spokesperson for Dexcom, makers of the continuous glucose monitor that has often saved me from dipping too low. Nick, living with type 1, wants to bring diabetes into the open, get people talking. Get the facts out there-what diabetes is, what it isn’t. I totally agree with him. Let’s start talking openly and honestly.
There are two good points about this controversy. Point one is about spreading accurate information. Viewing them as the same is like saying that Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s are the same because they each have a movement disorder component. Yes. Insulin is a problem for both. However, type 1 is an autoimmune disease which can strike a person at any age. People with type 1 have a pancreas that significantly reduced or stopped producing insulin. It has nothing to do with how much sugar we have consumed. Instead of sugar as the enemy, for type 1, we often need to consume some sugar to raise our levels of glucose when we have gone too low. (Not that I like being low, it’s definitely a problem, but I really don’t object now and then to needing to consume a piece of candy or some other sweet!). Sugar, in moderation, is our friend. (What’s your favorite sweet snack when you’re low?) Causes of type 1 are still not clear.
Type 2 involves more of the metabolic processes, in which the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces, often called insulin resistance. Obesity plays a role here, although what that role is has not totally been defined either. And this leads us to the second good point to discuss about this controversy.
Nick Jonas made a strong point to distinguish between type 1 and type 2. Yes, they are very different diseases and we need to put out the facts. However, as a psychologist, I believe that there is also an underlying reason that people with type 1 don’t want to be viewed as type 2. Since type 2 is somehow connected to obesity, we tend to point fingers and blame those with type 2. We say: lose weight. Exercise. Eat healthy. You caused it yourself. Any wonder that people with type 2 actually don’t want to talk about it? And people with type 1 don’t want to be blamed for their disease. We didn’t do “bad things” to ourselves. It just shows up. We don’t want to be affiliated with type 2 blame.
However, instead of blaming people with type 2, we need to offer more help, more compassion. If indeed overeating does contribute, it is far from the only factor. People with type 2 have a gene connection. Being overweight does not create diabetes by itself. And problems with overeating are complicated. I would hope that people who view themselves as eating healthy would not be so smug as to blame others who don’t. Both psychological and physical factors are involved in a healthy lifestyle. And no one is perfect. Did you ever bite your nails? Do you smoke? Do you compulsively clean? Do you drink too much? Breaking habits is a very difficult thing to do. Compassion and less blame would go a long way to helping bring type 2 out of the closet and contribute to people more willing to talk about their disease and be compliant with treatment. And the more people that talk about type 1 and type 2, the more opportunity to raise awareness, which can only benefit all of us.
So, thanks, Nick, for getting this conversation going. I welcome comments! Talk to me. (After all, I am a psychologist!).