Young adults between the ages of 14 and 22 were studied to see how their blood sugars changed from the paediatric diabetic clinic to the adult clinic. In all 126 young people took part. The average hba1c was 9.4% (80mmol/l) before transfer to the adult clinic and decreased by 0.3% for each of the two years after transfer.
Those with divorced parents had hba1s 1.2% higher (14 mmol/l). Those with mental health conditions or intellectual and social impairment also had higher blood sugar levels.
A third of the patients were admitted to hospital for acute diabetes care. Hospital admission was more common if there was a low outpatient attendance rate, a high baseline Hba1c level, intellectual and social impairment, mental health conditions or divorced parents. Researchers concluded that these groups of families needed more support.
Reported in the Independent Diabetes Trust Newsletter March 2017 from an original article in Diabetic Medicine, January 2017).
One story that caught our attention this week was a piece in the news about EastEnders making a diabetes-related gaff.
Referring to a children’s party, a character in the show had talked about the food on offer, commenting that it wasn’t a good children’s party unless a kid got diabetes. The press talked it up along the lines of “outrage as EastEnders makes a mockery of those with a chronic illness” kind of thing (I paraphrase).
The “outrage” (and often outrage is a complete media invention) seemed to be about the supposed wrong understanding of what childhood diabetes is – because type 1 diabetes isn’t caused by sugar intake. Or that diabetes is a laughing matter, according to the outraged who awarded EastEnders social media exaggeration along the lines of #epicfail
There are a number of issues here. The character didn’t actually classify what kind of diabetes the children would get – she just said diabetes. In reality, younger and younger people are now falling victim to type 2 diabetes because of increased body weights in younger people. Increased body weight can be due to excessive sugar intake, which also causes insulin resistance and can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is an auto-immune condition. Its exact causes are unknown. But do people in possession of common sense seeking an accurate understanding of medical conditions and what they involve look to EastEnders? Really? Does a soap opera have that responsibility?
Did I laugh when I read the story? Yup. Do I think it’s done massive damage to the diabetes cause in the UK? Nope.
Years ago, as a newly-diagnosed 10-year-old, a boy in my primary school class told me I had type 1 diabetes because I’d eaten too much sugar. Luckily for my self-esteem I knew he wasn’t right (though I wasn’t confident enough to actually challenge him) but in later years my older self knew that he hadn’t been that far off the mark when it comes to sugar and what it does to bodies.
Let’s look at this ‘gaff’ in another way too. Suppose our character Kim’s saying about children getting diabetes from eating too much sugar was taken to heart by the nation and parents all over the UK decided to cut sugar out of their kids’ diets completely.
Heavens. Would that be such a terrible thing…?
Picture thanks to Hire for Parties.