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December 5, 2000

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Des Moines, Iowa, USA:

Does drinking Coke or Pepsi (or other high-sugar drinks like beer, in adulthood) contribute to the development of diabetes? Is diabetes a "modern" disease, or has it been around for hundreds of years?


You’ve asked some good questions, ones I often hear from people at our diabetes support group.

First, you can’t give yourself diabetes without having a genetic setup from birth. Drinking more or less of those high sugar drinks you mention doesn’t give everyone diabetes. It can, however, add additional weight to some, and this, along with the genetic setup for diabetes, can bring type�2 diabetes into a person’s life.

The environment we now live in has less exercise in daily life and more calorie dense foods in larger supply than our ancestors so we are seeing more type 2 diabetes than ever before. In other countries that are now “modernizing” like the US, they too are finding type 2 diabetes in epidemic numbers. We hail from ancestors that were more active, ate less while they were out hunting for foods, and were able to survive under these conditions. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t find food when I was hungry.

As to your last question, there are reports of type�1 diabetes as early as 200 B.C. This is not the type of diabetes that I am talking about in the above message. Type�1 diabetes is very different, and continues to affect much smaller numbers of people, about 5-10% of all people with diabetes.


[Editor’s comment: Diabetes was first described in the Eber’s Papyrus in 1500 B.C.