Canada’s Contributions to Diabetes Research

Canada’s Contributions to Diabetes Research

When 11-year-old Elizabeth Hughes was diagnosed with diabetes in 1919, it was equivalent to a death sentence.  She was not expected to live beyond her 14th birthday.  At that time, the only known method of prolonging the life of diabetics was to put the patient on a salad-based starvation diet devoid of sugar and starch with only the minimum calories needed to survive.

In the process, Elizabeth came to weigh just 45 pounds of skin and bones three years after her initial diagnosis.  But she was lucky enough to be one of the first patients to try the new revolutionary treatment Dr. Frederick Banting of the University of Toronto developed by isolating insulin from pancreatic hormones.  She lived up to be 74 years old, and Dr. Banting’s discovery has been called one of the most important scientific advances of the 20th century.

The story of Elizabeth Hughes and diabetes research were brought to light by recently published book ‘Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle’ by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg.  It details the great moment of medical history, those who made it happen and those whose lives were changed forever.

Dr. Banting won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923.  Since then, Canada has been the leading country in the area of diabetes research.  Banting’s name was immortalized as his birthday has been taken as World Diabetes Day, November 14th.

Today, we know that the injectable insulin was not a fundamental cure for diabetes.  Even with its symptoms brought under control, diabetes has become as epidemic as to be called ‘The Plague of Modern Times.’  It not only destroys the lives of patients and their families, but also causes a financial catastrophe for individuals and society.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million children and adults in the United States, 7.8% of the population, has diabetes.  Of that amount, 17.9 million people are diagnosed, and 5.7 million people go undiagnosed.  Additionally, 57 million people have pre-diabetes, and each year 1.6 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older.

The need for the safe and permanent diabetes cure is getting more essential for the health and well being of people than ever.

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