Diabetes and Worst-Case Scenarios

Previously, Childhood Obesity News published a series of three posts designed specifically for children and teens: “Dear Grandkid, Don’t Get Diabetes,” “Dear Grandkid, Don’t Get Diabetes — Continued,” and “Dear Grandkid, Don’t Get Diabetes (Part 3).” Young people are notorious for disregarding the future, but if knowing about these aspects can help even one child out there somewhere, that’s a plus!

The thing is, obesity and diabetes go together like peanut butter and jelly. We explained how Type 2 diabetes used to pretty much be an old folks’ problem. Recently, the Type 2 populations of teens, and even children, have exploded.

The avoidance of diabetes by any possible means is a worthy goal, because the life of a full-blown diabetes patient can be hellish. For starters, it’s incredibly expensive. Insulin prices have gone through the roof, and the injection equipment isn’t cheap either, or the gear needed for doing self-tests.

And then there are the doctor visits. Ideally, a whole treatment team is involved. Along with the doctor who deals with the diabetes, it is important to check in frequently with an eye doctor and a dentist. If the disease progresses to the point of needing hemodialysis, that involves enormous amounts of time, not to mention the hassles of transportation to and from the site where the procedure takes place. It is a job! And if you don’t believe it, check out this page on daily routine.

The many health traps

Either hyperglycemia (too much blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (not enough blood sugar) can put a person in a coma. Even if things don’t go that far, a person might get headaches and feel weak and confused and be unable to think straight or talk sensibly. Long-term, diabetes can wreck the kidneys, mess up the heart, and weaken the bones. It can also disarm the immune system, which is not recommended, because flu, pneumonia, tetanus, and hepatitis B (to name a few) are particularly hard on diabetic patients.

Oh, and don’t forget neuropathy, or nerve damage, which can occur in four different varieties — peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and focal. The autonomic kind sounds particularly nasty, scrambling the digestive system and reproductive organs, and interfering with elimination to the point where the patient needs to be catheterized.

Peripheral neuropathy is no fun either. It’s really hard to go to sleep when it feels like somebody forgot the marshmallows and decided to roast your feet in the campfire instead. And then, there is amputation.

It gets worse

Even when a diabetes patient makes it to middle age or old age more-or-less physically intact, something even more frightening waits on the horizon. It has long been known that many conditions associated with Type 2 diabetes, like insulin resistance, are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Type 2 diabetes doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

The patient may be unaware of what’s going on, but pity the poor caregiver who has to keep an Alzheimer’s victim calm during dialysis. It’s a compounded nightmare. However, about 10 years ago clinicians started to realize that the drug liraglutide, which helps to normalize blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, had two “off-label” effects.

Some people lost weight. Also, wrote Dr. Scott Mendelson at the time,

What is equally interesting, however, is the possibility that this new type of medication may also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in sufferers of Diabetes Type II, and perhaps even those without diabetes.

In mid-decade a small study from Denmark, with “clear and impressive” measurements of glucose metabolism, gave hope that the liraglutide effect could be real.

And a 2018 study stated that although “The mechanisms by which liraglutide exerts its beneficial actions in the brain remain largely unknown,” “molecular links between deregulated insulin signaling in AD and diabetes have raised the prospect for novel therapeutic strategies based on anti‐diabetic agents.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Type 2 Diabetes: A Morning-to-Night Routine to Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable Around the Clock,” EverydayHealth.com, undated
Source: “What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?”, WebMD.com, undated
Source: “New Diabetes Drug May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease,” HuffPost.com, 11/17/11
Source: “Diabetes Drug May Rev Up Brain Metabolism in People with Alzheimer’s,” AlzForum.org, 24 May 2016
Source: “The diabetes drug liraglutide reverses cognitive impairment in mice and attenuates insulin receptor and synaptic pathology in a non‐human primate model of Alzheimer’s disease,” NIH.gov, 04/02/18
Image by Dan/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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