Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in just the United States. It is estimated that 10% of adults suffer from diabetes and as of now there is no cure. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, so in support, here are 5 curious facts about diabetes history:
1. During the ice age it was beneficial to have diabetes
15,000 years ago when the earth was covered in ice, it was necessary to find ways to stay warm. Diabetes occurs due to the lack of insulin production, which raises the glucose in the blood. This raises the freezing point of the blood—which gave protection to individuals with the disease during the ice age. This is a hypothesis for its occurrence in modern time.
2. Diabetes is one of the oldest described illnesses
The Egyptians wrote the first known record of diabetes in 1500 BC. They explained it as a rare illness that caused a person to urinate often. It is assumed this was a description of type 1 diabetes.
3. The Greeks named Diabetes around 80 CE
Aretaeus, a Greek physician, first used the word diabetes mellitus. In Greek “diabetes” means “to pass through.” This was due to the excess urine caused by the disease. The term mellitus was added a bit later—but it means “with honey” due to the increased sugar in urine.
4. In the 11th century doctors would test for diabetes by drinking urine
Up until the 11th century those suspected of having diabetes would have their urine tested by “water testers.” Due to the lack of insulin production, there is an increase in glucose in the urine, making it sweet. Good thing diagnosis methods have changed!
5. Sir Frederick Banting was first physician to administer insulin on humans
In 1922 Banting injected a 14 year-old boy with insulin who was on the verge of death from his diabetes. The boy survived and his symptoms began to lessen. Insulin testing became more widespread, and after its continued success, Banting and his partner John Macleod received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery.