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A Bittersweet Deal: The Diabetes Business

For the last 40 to 50 years, the number of people with diabetes worldwide has nearly quadrupled. It’s called the silent epidemic (over 400 million people have diabetes), it’s causing almost two million deaths globally, and sadly, experts only see these numbers doubling over the next few years. Experts also call diabetes a "global catastrophe in slow motion", citing the astronomical costs to the planet in terms of healthcare and loss in productivity. The situation is even more untenable because the pharmaceutical industry has placed a hefty premium on insulin and other medicine diabetics need to survive.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that disrupts how your body turns food into energy. Everything we eat is broken down to sugar or glucose by the body and released into the bloodstream. Our pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that allows the blood sugar to enter the cells for use as energy. If your body can't produce enough insulin, or your cells ignore it or stop responding to it, the blood sugar in your bloodstream will increase, causing significant and even fatal health problems.

The disease is further split into two types: Type 1, a genetic condition one is born with and shows up in childhood, and Type 2, which is mainly related to lifestyle and diet, affecting an individual later in life. The world saw increased food production from the 1960s to the 1980s due to new technologies and a growing global population. More processed, salty and sugary foods were now readily available and more people developed Type 2 diabetes.

The elevated blood sugar levels that characterize Type 2 can cause heart and kidney disease and vision loss. It’s the leading cause of amputations in the USA and Europe, as well as leading cause for dialysis and kidney transplants.

In 1921, Canadian surgeon Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best discovered a synthetic form of insulin, thus saving countless lives and symbolically sold the formula to pharmaceutical company Lilly for only $1. The fact that they chose not to capitalize on the suffering of millions makes the current situation ironic.

Today, big pharma makes billions of dollars on insulin sales alone, particularly in the USA, where insulin prices are the highest globally. With sky-high insulin prices, people are trying to ration their doses or find ways to get it cheaper from other countries threatening supply chains. And while there are also anti-diabetic pills that can help, lowering your body's glycemic level can sometimes even increase your risk.

Many people don't realize that it is possible to reverse Type 2 diabetes by cutting out sugar and eating a healthy diet made up of more vegetables, less meat, and processed food. But big pharma - and now big food corporations - are getting in the way, pushing for insulin-based treatment methods vs the alternatives. The profits are, maybe, just too good to give up.

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