The history of diabetes begins thousands of years ago when the ancient Greeks noticed some people passing large amounts of urine, as well as exhibiting what we now know as other telltale signs of diabetes, such as excessive thirst, increased appetite and vision difficulties.
Since written history tells us diabetes existed before the creation of high-calorie, processed foods, it definitely contains a strong genetic component resulting from random mutations occurring during the recombination process of reproduction.
Who Discovered Diabetes?
An ancient Egyptian physician named Hesy-Ra, practicing in 1552 BCE, is the first known person to document diabetic symptoms in individuals who he also noted were emaciated. Other doctors during this time noticed that the urine of people with this disease appeared to be very attractive to ants.
Sometime in the 1st century BCE, the Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia used the word “diabainein” when describing a patient who may have been suffering from diabetes. This word means “to siphon” in ancient Greek, which represents the constant passing of urine by diabetics. Hundreds of years later, in the early 1400s, the word “diabete” was first written down in old English medical documents, further delineating the history of diabetes.
Other high points of the history of diabetes include:
- In 1900, Dr. Oskar Minkowski and Dr. Joseph von Mering determined that the pancreatic processes played a key role in the development of diabetes.
- In 1920, Dr. R. D. Lawrency created the dietary exchange system which lead to the development of the current diabetes guidelines.
- In 1921, scientists Charles Best and Frederick Banting found that insulin is an effective medication for treating diabetes.
- In 1936, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes was discovered by Sir Harold Percival Himsworth.
- In 1942, a drug considered to be the first sulfonylurea was produced and used to help those with Type 2 diabetes.
- In 1961, the medical company Becton-Dickinson made the single-use syringe available for diabetics who need daily doses of insulin.
- In 1979, blood sugar measurements were facilitated by the creation of the hemoglobin A1C test.
- In 1988, metabolic syndrome was identified by Dr. Gerald Reaven, which extended the definition of diabetes and allowed preventive measures to be taken with those diagnosed with this syndrome.
- In 2007, a new treatment involving diabetics being treated with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow produced positive results, with most diabetics no longer needing insulin treatments for lengthy time periods.
The answer to what is diabetes was technically given around the 6th century BCE, when Sushruta, a famous Indian physician, identified and classified diabetes as “Medhumeha.” He also noted that having a sedentary lifestyle coupled with obesity may aggravate such a condition and advocated exercise to “cure” symptoms.
Publishing pictures of diabetes complications such as gangrene, open sores that do not heal and emaciated bodies also provided the public with real-life implications of diabetic conditions that are not properly treated. As a result of this and advances in medicine, the risk of dying from diabetes was greatly reduced.
History of Diabetes–Today
What doctors know about diabetes today is in part due to the insights of physicians practicing medicine thousands of years ago. However, with the increase of processed foods and ability to earn a living without engaging in physical activity, diabetes statistics reveal that individuals being diagnosed with diabetes is skyrocketing all over the world. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website, over 35 million people living in the U.S. have some form of diabetes. Additionally, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Using the history of diabetes as a statistically significant form of information provides researchers with something called the diabetes belt, which tells us where the highest prevalence of diabetes presently exists in the U.S. If you live in any of the following states,in South Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee or Virginia you are in fact, a part of the diabetes belt.
Many people could be at risk of developing diabetes and not even know it. See the video below and reduce the chances of developing diabetes.
Researchers suggest it is a combination of diet, lifestyle, culture and genetics which causes this cluster to occur in these specific states. Individuals living in these states need to dismiss cultural preferences for fatty, high-calorie foods and engage in more physical activity to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.