Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes (as it will be in this article) was first identified as a disease associated with "sweet urine," and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine, hence the term sweet urine.
While scientific controversy still exists over whether a cure for diabetes even exists, the possibility is still bright with current advances in technology. Cutting-edge technologies like stem cells therapies and regenerative medicine are pushing the envelope, and may hold high promise for a potential cure to diabetes, but there’s also still room for advanced oral-based pharmaceuticals to help in the battle against diabetes. Chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes can certainly draw big investments, something we see not just from the above companies but from a well-funded startup called Intarcia Therapeutics that we covered a few years ago when it had raised $759 million. It has now taken in $1.6 billion and is STILL in stage 3 clinical trials more than three years later. In other words, you need more than bright ideas to cure diabetes, but a lot of money to bring these therapies to market.
Today, 425 million adults live with diabetes, and that number is expected to grow to 629 million by 2045, with the greatest number between the ages of 40 to 59 years old. The global prevalence of diabetes has risen from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014, with the proportion of type 2 diabetes increasing around the world. On top of those numbers, another whopping 352 million people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the 2017 Economic Cost of Diabetes survey sponsored by the American Diabetes Association, the total cost of diabetes was estimated to be $327 billion, a 26 percent increase since 2012. About three-quarters of those costs are associated with direct medical expenditures. Patients with diabetes are expected to pay an average of $9,600 in additional medical costs annually. A diabetes cure could cut out a nice chunk of fat out of those costs, potentially worth $245 billion from the 30 million diabetic Americans alone.
The review affirmed how effective surgery is at treating diabetes (possibly even type 1 diabetes). Around two-thirds of patients with diabetes experience a full remission soon after surgery, while the rest are often better able to control their blood sugar through diet, exercise and medication. Other studies have shown that diabetics who have surgery outlive those who haven’t. Some longer-term research has suggested that one-third of these successes slide back into having active diabetes after five years, but to a lesser degree than they might have without surgery. By contrast, a 2014 study found that fewer than 2 percent of diabetes patients given standard care experienced any remission within a seven-year span.
Joyce Lashof, then the dean of Berkeley’s School of Public Health, remembers that wellness was initially a tough sell at the school. Not much was known on campus about the earlier work of Travis and his fellow wellness advocates, but Lashof’s colleagues associated the term wellness with the “flakiness” of Mill Valley and surrounding Marin County. The NBC newsman Edwin Newman had televised an exposé of Marin County’s hedonistic lifestyle, which notoriously opened with a woman getting a peacock-feather massage from two nude men. The Berkeley Wellness Letter, however, managed to avoid such unseemly associations by publishing serious, evidence-based articles on health promotion, while debunking many of the holistic health fads of the day.
Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes mellitus.
Apart from these medications, treating diabetes effectively means taking a well-rounded approach: You’ll need to eat well, exercise, and manage stress, because all these factors can affect your blood sugar levels. Staying healthy with diabetes also requires caring for yourself — like protecting your feet, practicing oral hygiene, and tending to your mental health.
The people at Wellspring were easy to talk to. They were into eye contact, and open about how what Brand had said was true: Beneath the good vibes and aerial-yoga acrobatics, many attendees at this conference told me they were sober or currently dealing with addiction. The ultra-runner Engle was not alone in the conscious replacement of substances with wellness. But addicted or not, many of the people I met had turned to wellness to explicitly fill some space previously occupied by a substance or behavior or person, so as not to relapse into self-destructive habits.
So how does the wellness movement keep perspective and stay focused on what matters? It’s not about just finding one’s true north but following it, day after day, year after year. Straying happens as more of a gradual slide than as any single decision to go down a bad road. You start off doing what you think is right or helpful or normal, and then it feels good to make some money, and then it feels necessary, and you have an obligation to grow and to be seen as flourishing and successful. Then before you know it, you’re running a huge company that’s preying on seekers and begging them off course.
The other way to make such things accessible is to inundate attendees with advertising—which can undermine the concept by making us feel inadequate without this product or that, rather than by affirming our wholeness. Poolside, Hoess told me that he believes there can still be profit in a less consumerist direction, but that it’s necessary to “redefine capitalism to where it’s not just about pure profit, it’s also about social profit. If we can merge those things, I think business becomes a force for good.”
In the picture to the right you can see the lunch that I was unbelievably served at the 11th International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm 2010. This is a major international conference for obesity doctors and scientists. The food contains almost exclusively energy from sugar and starches, things that are broken down to simple sugars in the stomach.
This deluge of products alternately offered to fill attendees with energy or to calm us down, but almost never to keep us as we were. The implicit allure of such products was that we were not okay, or at least could be better. Given all the ways in which most people believe we could be improved, “wellness” has become an all-encompassing concept and industry that not only eats into the territory of mainstream medicine, but that has subsumed what used to be called “alternative medicine”—that which alludes to scientific claims when convenient and also defines itself in opposition to the scientific establishment.