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SALT LAKE CITY— Diabetes is a growing health problem in the U.S., especially Type 2. But Utahn David Steiner was not too concerned with his diagnosis.
"I wanted to not have to diet," Steiner said. "I wanted to not have to exercise, I wanted to keep living my lifestyle."
I wanted to not have to diet. I wanted to not have to exercise, I wanted to keep living my lifestyle.
–David Steiner, Type 2 diabetic patient
This lifestyle cost Steiner, a Type 2 diabetic, his good health.
"I was already injuring my body, I was feeling numbness in my feet, I was worried about as my vision started to do strange things," Steiner said.
After years of pushing his diagnosis to the side, major symptoms started showing up.
"I was actually getting kind of desperate," he said. "I was realizing I was tired and I was having trouble sleeping I was having difficulty breathing."
Nearly three million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. Utahns have watched one such patient grow up before our eyes— Liddy Huntsman, the daughter of Utah's former governor, John Huntsman.
Liddy found out she had diabetes in third grade and remembers that week well.
"I turned to my mom and this was two days in, so I had been sitting in this hospital bed for two days, thinking these thoughts. I turned to her and said 'mom, am I going to die?'. She said 'why would you think that?' Well, diabetes starts with d-i," Liddy said.
She says treatments for Type 1 diabetes have come a long way, so that diabetics can live a mostly normal life. Liddy days she does run into people who make the wrong assumptions about her.
"Myths, absolutely," she said. "There are a lot of myths about Type1 that associate with Type 2. It all goes down to education."
Liddy has lived with diabetes for over 15 years and has injected over 35,000 shots and pricked her finger around 38,000 times.
"That's been what is most inspiring to me, that I can conquer this and I can help other people who don't have diabetes to get through issues," Liddy said. "Helping other people has helped me more than i ever thought."
Steiner was told his body was resisting its own insulin, and it would be some time before the negative effects would take a toll on his daily life. But he started seeing problems a lot sooner.
"Twenty years, and then you're going to start seeing some serious problems," Steiner said. "But it was only five years, maybe even four, before I started seeing it happen."
Doctors say people like Steiner have a higher risk for diabetes because it runs in his family. But his quest to feed his hunger also played a role.
"I am a carbohydrate addict— or at least I was" Steiner said.
So he had to make the change from pastas and breads to eating five small, balanced meals a day. And he says within two weeks, drastic changes started happening.
"I started tracking it every day, morning and night, and to my disbelief, it just normalized," he said.
Dietician Theresa Dvorak says diabetics still need to eat carbs.
"We need to require a pretty consistent intake with carbohydrates with type of diet whether you're Type 1 or Type 2," Dvorak said.
Dr. Mary Murray from Intermountain Healthcare says that it can be hard to change your lifestyle.
"They have to eat differently, they have to start exercising more and these are hard things to do if you've never done it," Murray said.
Steiner has advice for those that are on the verge of Type 2 diabetes:
"Take it more seriously than I did and just decide 'I am going to take control of this,'" he said.
And diabetics might not always have to inject insulin. Harvard scientists may have discovered a new way to treat Type 2 diabetes.
The discovery is centered on a hormone called.. Beta-Trophin. Researchers say in mice, the hormone leads to an enormous boost in "beta cell production" by the pancreas. In fact, up to 30 times the normal rate.
But a lot more work needs to be done, including lab work involving human patients. If the hormone proves effective, it could someday replace insulin injections. But until then, diabetics will have to continue with the shots.