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Diabetes: The Sweet & Sour Truth

A Chinese bowl and ladle

People have always linked diabetes and sweets: Its full name Diabetes Mellitus means "honey siphon." But, why do we think of sweets when we think of this disease?

The Sweet

Contrary to rumor, diabetes is not caused by eating too many sweets; rather, it's caused by many factors, including genetics, glandular diseases, chemicals and other factors scientists are still discovering.

One reason that diabetes is often linked with sugar is because diabetes involves difficulty processing glucose, which is a building block of foods like bread, rice and table sugar. After digestion, glucose travels throughout the body in the blood stream. It enters all of our cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. Insulin picks up the glucose and carries it into each cell, like a mail carrier.

The Sour

In diabetes, the happy union of glucose and insulin goes sour. There are two types of diabetes: type one and type two. In type one, the body stops producing insulin. Without it, glucose can't enter the cells of the body and collects in the blood, causing hunger, thirst, weight loss and fatigue.

In type two, the cells of the body resist insulin and glucose collects in the blood stream, resulting in "high blood sugar."

Diabetes is treated by restoring the glucose-insulin relationship. Type one is treated with shots of insulin, and type two may be treated with medication. Diabetes is a serious disease that many (2.9 million in America alone) must learn to cope with.

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