World Diabetes Day: Celebs share realities of dealing with the chronic condition

Rachel McArthur

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Today, November 14, is World Diabetes Day, a campaign led by the International Diabetes Federation to raise awareness and reflect the realities of dealing with a chronic condition.

This year’s theme focuses on ‘Women in Diabetes’ to reflect the fact that every 1 in 10 women around the world is living with diabetes. Shockingly, it is still a leading cause of death amongst women.

There are two types of diabetes – Type 1, which usually develops in childhood or adolescence, causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the beta cells of the pancreas, resulting in no, or very little, insulin being released into the body. Type 2, which often develops later on in adult life, occurs when the body can’t properly use the insulin that is released. Either way, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy, which is dangerous.

Worryingly, 1 in 2 people currently living with diabetes remain undiagnosed. The earlier you screen the better.

These celebs who all suffer, or have suffered, from diabetes have spoken out about their condition in the hope to encourage others to take charge of their health.


With her enviable figure, it’s hard to believe that fitness enthusiast Halle Berry has Type 2 diabetes (which is often caused by factors such as bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle).

“Diabetes caught me completely off guard,” she said in an interview in 2010. “None of my family had suffered from the illness and although I was slightly overweight in school, I thought I was pretty healthy.

“I fell ill – dramatically – when I was on the TV show, ‘Living Dolls’, in 1989. I felt I needed energy but I didn’t even have a minute to pop out and get a chocolate bar. I didn’t really know what was wrong.

“One day, I simply passed out, and I didn't wake up for seven days, which is obviously very serious.”

Since then, Halle has been living on a ketogenic diet, which involves eliminating sugar and most carbohydrates.

“The idea of it is you train your body to burn healthy fats and so I eat healthy fats all day long,” the 51-year-old once told US talk show ‘Live! with Kelly and Ryan’. “Avocado, oil, coconut oil, butter, but don’t have sugar. So when your body gets trained to burn fats and you're constantly on fat-burning mode, that’s the secret.”


Another celebrity quite vocal about his condition is US singer Nick Jonas, who has even set up the Beyond Type 1 Foundation with celeb chef Sam Talbot.

He says: “Nearly ten years ago my life changed dramatically when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Since then, I learned how to manage and live well with this disease and made it my mission to speak openly about it with the hope of helping others deal with the struggles of managing diabetes in their own life.

“When I share my personal story, the questions I most often hear are, ‘What did you eat that gave you diabetes?’ or ‘Does that mean you were lazy as a kid?’ Although it’s been difficult to deal with the misinformation out there, I always found a way to not let the lack of knowledge surrounding diabetes affect me.

“We have a long way to go in the education of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and in that lack of knowledge is the even harsher reality that we are still very far from a cure.”

As a kid, Nick admitted that he felt sorry for himself when first diagnosed.

“[But then] I asked myself ‘Why not me?’ and realised I might be able to help other kids with diabetes.

“I want to let kids know that it doesn't have to be so hard.”


Had the Hollywood actor been buying too many boxes of chocolate? According to Tom Hanks, he blames his diet and his weight for his Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2013.

“I’m part of the lazy American generation that has blindly kept dancing through the party and now finds ourselves with a malady,” Tom said in an interview with the Radio Times. “I was heavy. You've seen me in movies, you know what I looked like. I was a total idiot.

“I thought I could avoid it by removing the buns from my cheeseburgers. Well, it takes a little bit more than that.


The ‘Ugly Betty’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’ star, who’s a Type 1 diabetic, has contributed on a book for children on the condition, called ‘Healthy Child, Healthy World’.

Speaking about living with diabetes, the actress says: “I listen to my body. I don’t weigh myself. I’m not obsessed with pounds – if I feel good in my clothes, I feel good.

“If my clothes start to get tight, I know I’ve got to modify what I’m eating.”


Although she doesn’t fully suffer from the condition, Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor reveals she is borderline Type 2.

“I have insulin resistance because I am suffering from PCOD [polycystic ovary disorder]. So, I'm on the borderline and am prone to develop diabetes. I have been on medication for the past six years to avert the condition.”

Revealing how she manages it, the 32-year-old says: “Since I have excessive insulin in my body, consuming excessive sugar or putting on weight can be harmful for me, and I might develop diabetes. So, I am very particular about my eating habits and I work out regularly.”


Athletes aren’t immune from the condition. Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 25.

Now 34, the American football player manages his symptoms with special training and the help of his wife, Kristin Cavallari.

Recalling the time he had lost more than 30 pounds and was experiencing extreme fatigue, Jay says: “I was relieved when we figured out what it was and that it was treatable. Now I can play at 100 percent of my ability.”


Best known for his role as Danny Wheeler on the US sitcom ‘Baby Daddy’, Derek is one of the most outspoken celebs about Type 1 diabetes. He even has it in his Instagram profile description.

Diagnosed at the age of 3, the actor told ‘The Doctors’ how he has to continuously keep his blood sugars in check.

“It’s hard. It’s 24-7. You have to be responsible and no matter what happens, you’re going to have mishaps,” he stated.“I’ve had some scares in the past, but… my message is to try and live life normally and just be responsible with your disease and you can achieve all your goals.”


And finally, British singer Amelia Lily was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was just three-and-a-half years old.

She told Diabetes UK of her struggle with injecting insulin: “I didn’t really understand what it was and my mum had to pin me down to give me my injections. I think a lot of mums who have children with diabetes will appreciate how hard it is to do that to a little girl.

“When I was about eight I learnt how to do my own injections. I was very aware even at that age that I couldn't always depend on my parents. One day I would grow up and move out so I would have to learn to do it myself.”

While the 23-year-old admits that it’s still hard at times, she states that the routine gets easier.

“You have to stay on the ball to keep yourself healthy. I like to know exactly what my [blood] levels are before I go on stage,” she continues. “You burn a lot of energy performing on the stage. Singing burns more than a run, so it's important for me to keep my insulin levels up. I always make sure I eat and have food in my tummy before I perform.”

Follow this year’s campaign using the hashtag #WDD.

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