Diabetes: Don’t Sugarcoat It

Picture of Randy Jackson | Courtesy of Getty Images

Many people suffer from diabetes, a common disease that affects individuals, regardless of economic or social status. Indeed, many influencers in our society, from celebrities to media figureheads alike, are forced to deal with this ailment. For many, it is hard to imagine some of the prominent and popular members of our society suffering from diseases like diabetes, as we often hold them in such high regard. However, the truth of the matter is that they are still human beings, and, like us, are forced to go through struggles too. Luckily, because of the platform available to them, many affected influencers use their popularity to speak up and become the faces of campaigns fighting diseases like diabetes.

One of the primary public figures fighting diabetes is world famous Grammy winner Randy Jackson. Randy has not only been open about his struggle with diabetes, but has helped organizations get information out and has generated a massive amount of awareness so that others can recognize and prevent the disease, to not have to go through what he did. Randy Jackson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on June 23, 1956, and is a famous television personality and musician who was once a judge for American Idol on an American singing competition. In his music and TV career, Randy has attained great success. Many people know Randy Jackson for his musical accomplishments and successes, but not many know he lives with an incurable disease. Randy Jackson, like many musicians, worked long nights in studios and was on the road constantly for tours and shows. Because of his fast-paced lifestyle, he consistently dined on a variety of unhealthy foods. As he was from the South, Randy also ate a lot of “southern comfort foods” which are unhealthy and often contain high amounts of butter and sugar. This diet of unhealthy food and lack of exercise came with a price beyond a few extra pounds. Eventually, Randy Jackson began gaining a lot of weight, and even got to a point where he weighed more than 350 pounds.1 In 1999, Jackson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Randy was initially shocked when he received the diagnosis, as the symptoms he was experiencing from the disease were also common with obesity and weight gain. For instance, Randy constantly felt tired and lethargic. Since these symptoms were common with being overweight, he was not able to identify the disease until he went for a medical check up. As he was diagnosed, the doctors informed the famous musician about the nature of diabetes and how it would begin affecting his body.2

Different types of Diabetes | Courtesy of Getty Images

Insulin is a hormone that comes from the pancreas, and this hormone regulates the amount of glucose in the body. It does this by entering into the bloodstream and acting as a key to allow sugar entry into the cells as energy, which causes the overall amount of sugar in the blood stream to lower. Glucose, or simple sugar, acts as a source of energy for cells in the body, and primarily comes from what a person eats. Diabetes revolves around Insulin, and either affects the way the body makes or uses this hormone. People with diabetes are at risk of having excess sugar in the bloodstream, and too much sugar in the body has a tendency to lead to other health problems such as weight gain which opens the door to other issues, including heart-related diseases. Ultimately, diabetes can come in two chronic forms: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.3

Type 1 diabetes is hereditary, and causes the body’s own immune system to attack insulin-producing cells located in the pancreas. By doing this, it takes away the body’s ability to produce insulin. Because of this immune disorder, many people who have this form of diabetes need to take insulin in order to live. While the exact cause for type 1 diabetes is not known, it is currently believed to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors, with no connection to the mass of an individual. Type 2 diabetes is non-hereditary, and can affect anyone who has bad exercise or eating habits. so, while type 1 is commonly associated with genetics and external influence, type 2 diabetes is directly linked to bad habits, excessive sugar intake, and lack of exercise. Rather than merely stopping or lowering the production of insulin, type 2 diabetes prevents the pancreas from using insulin effectively. This causes the person to build a resistance to insulin over time, and results in the body’s ultimate failure to make enough insulin to overcome the natural resistance, which results in sugar buildup in the bloodstream.4

The symptoms one experiences with diabetes vary depending on how much sugar one has in their bloodstream. People with type 2 diabetes tend not to experience symptoms in the beginning, while people with type 1 diabetes tend to experience multiple and severe symptoms at a quicker pace. Common symptoms that people with diabetes experience include thirst, blurred vision, fatigue and frequent infections on their gums/skin. Although the disease is relatively widespread, many people, including Randy Jackson, don’t know that they have the disease because the symptoms are common and can easily be linked to other things such as being overweight or a victim of bad eating habits.5

After his diagnosis Randy was left with two choices: he could keep living the same way he was living or he could change his lifestyle to improve his health. When Randy first found out about having type 2 diabetes he was dumbfounded, and he decided to change for the better. Because his health was in danger, he realized that he could no longer keep living the same way he had been, as he had no intention of letting diabetes take hold of his life.6

The first thing Randy did after he found out that he had diabetes was to go his doctor and get a checkup on his body to make sure his health was in order. Next, he received help from a dietitian to improve his eating habits, in order to prevent any further damage to his body. Finally, he enrolled in an exercise program. Randy did these things because he knew that diabetes is influenced by the lifestyle one lives, and chose to change his in order to improve his health. In his effort to lose weight, Randy was initially pretty successful, but after a few months he was still massively overweight. In order to lose some more weight, he decided to have gastric bypass surgery in order to get a jump-start on his weight loss program. Although this helped him lose weight, his mass was only half of the battle. Randy also started working out more and began doing more activities that would help keep him active like tennis, yoga and weight lifting. Growing up in the South and being accustomed to southern foods made it hard for Randy to change his diet, but he eventually stopped eating the food that caused him to get the disease in the first place.7 Randy quickly lost 110 pounds after receiving his wake up call to get a hold of his health. He now lives everyday thinking about diabetes, and takes many steps in order to maintain a clean bill of health, because he knows that his ailment cannot be cured, but rather, that it can only be kept under control. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, Randy goes to the doctor regularly to monitor his diabetes and tests himself often.8

What is happening on the inside | Courtesy Getty Images

Type 2 diabetes is accurately displayed in Randy’s case, as he attributed a lot of his eating habits to his culture and upbringing in the South. Culture also has a role in someone’s risk of getting diabetes, because nutrition is a key factor in its contraction. As different cultures have different eating habits and different food, they will each be affected differently by the disease. Randy Jackson’s example of living in the South and eating southern food certainly played a role in his development of diabetes. Because of this, at least in part, certain groups of people are more likely to be affected by diabetes than others.9

Diabetes, if left unchecked, can develop long term complications, and these complications can be severe. They involve everything from cardiovascular problems and nerve damage to general foot damage. The prevention of these issues is exactly why it is important to detect it early and take the corresponding steps to deal with the disease or prevent it. A good way to prevent diabetes, other than choosing healthier options for eating habits and exercise, is getting ones blood sugar levels tested at least once a year to make sure everything is in order. There is no cure for diabetes, and once you get it you have it for life. Due to its popularity, there are many tests that one can take to diagnose diabetes, such as the fasting plasma glucose test that measures the glucose levels in the blood. There is also the A1C test, which displays the blood glucose levels to medical officials in order for them to know if the body’s levels are too high. Many people live long and relatively healthy lives with the disease. The key is to follow the “ABC’s,” an acronym devolved to help manage diabetes. “A” stands for the A1C test, “B” is for blood pressure, “C” is for cholesterol and S is to remind people to stop smoking. If a person checks on these four things and makes sure to keep them under control, they can normally live a good healthy life. Following those steps, along with developing a healthy meal plan and making physical activity a part of one’s lifestyle can also help with managing diabetes. In addition to healthy living, there are certain medicines and insulin that diabetics need to stay in good condition.10

Randy Jackson now lives a very healthy life style and is in shape. He is very careful about what he eats and checks his blood sugar levels up to 4 times a day to make sure his levels are good and not too high. Apart from handling his health and keeping his diabetes under control, Randy Jackson has been an active member in the diabetic community. Recently, Jackson has been involved with the Heart of Diabetes campaign and has become a spokesman for it. He started doing this primarily to bring awareness to the dangers of diabetics developing a cardiovascular disease, which is one of the leading causes of death to people with type 2 diabetes. This is just one of the many public service announcements that Randy Jackson has been a part of to help bring awareness and inform people about the problems and issues people with diabetes deal with.11

Randy Jackson has not only been open about having the disease but he has worked and been an active advocate as well, using his status to amplify his reach and get more people aware of the everyday things people with diabetes have to deal with. The campaign that he is a part of does a good job at spreading out information and sharing stories of people who live healthy lives with diabetes. Randy is an example of how with the proper steps one can live with diabetes and have a healthy life. With a change to a healthier lifestyle and more exercise Randy has been able to not only control his diabetes but also live a healthy life. Although Randy admits that cutting out southern cooking was hard, growing up eating it and including exercise into his daily activities was also something that took time and hard to incorporate. Having to learn about proper eating habits and learning about what he is putting in his body was hard for Randy, but he changed his lifestyle so that he could be healthier and control his life.  This has led him to try and let people with diabetes know that there are ways to live a good healthy life, and he is a beacon of encouragement for people to look to for the courage they need to change their lifestyles.12

Nutrition plays a big role in health issues | Courtesy of Getty Images

Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of people in the United States, and there happens to be about one and a half million new cases of diabetes every year. About 10 percent of the population in the United States has diabetes, and it is currently in the top ten causes of death among the general population. Because of these issues and due to how much of the population is affected by this disease, the total cost of it is around 327 billion dollars per year, with 237 billion of those being associated with direct medical cost, with an estimated medical cost for those with diabetes being 2.3 times more than those without diabetes. Tragically, those with diabetes face a financial strain as well apart from having to accommodate their lifestyles for the disease.13

Type 2 diabetes was once only common among adults and it was rare for adolescents to have the disease. Over the last twenty years, however, things have changed and type 2 diabetes, which was once exclusive to adults, has seen an increase in prevalence with obese adolescents. In a study called SEARCH, the prevalence of diabetes among adolescents of different ethnicities was observed and studied. At the end of the study, it was determined that there is a definitive connection between race and prevalence to diabetes. Although diabetes occurs in all races, there are certain races with higher rates of diabetes. In this study it was found that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to experience diabetes compared to Caucasians.14

Following Randy Jackson’s story we learn that he blames his diabetes on his eating habits, which he was accustomed to due to his upbringing in the South. To look deeper into the subject, however, one may analyze the situation from a racial perspective and look to see why minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics have higher prevalence rates of diabetes compared to the Caucasian population. A study conducted by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System displays the percentage of the prevalence of diabetes in the United States by race and ethnicity, and shows that blacks have a prevalence that is twice that of whites, while Hispanics have a higher percentage than whites as well. The differences between races can be quite disturbing to note when one takes a deeper look into the subject: about 18 percent of blacks twenty years old and up have diabetes compared to only 7 percent of white Americans. Further, African Americans have a 77 percent higher risk than white Americans at getting diabetes. Hispanics have a 66 percent higher risk than Caucasians. Many studies have been conducted to determine the cause of such a disparity between different racial-ethnic groups, and what has been hypothesized by some of these studies is that minority groups could be more susceptible to diabetes because of the common barriers they face to get healthcare when compared to Caucasians.15

There are many factors aside from one’s cultural diet that have given rise to this prevalence of diabetes among minorities. For Hispanics, the economic burdens due to socio-economic status is another factor, along with a distrust in medicine, and procedures in favor of traditional remedies. Another example could be found in the notion that Hispanic culture is a collective one that values family needs over an individual, which causes individuals to ignore their health and do what they need to do for their family members. The socio-economic status of both blacks and Hispanics is a major factor in their overall health status. Many people in the black community lack health insurance because of their situation, and these various statuses that both minorities have in society can be explored in terms of diet. Many minority individuals live in areas that lack dietary options compared to those in white communities. A study published on the Postgraduate Medical Journal goes over and emphasizes these points relating to minority ethnic and racial groups and diabetes. Little medical care can be afforded or is available to these groups. The lifestyle lived by those in poverty can eventually lead to diseases like diabetes. Some lack the time to participate in programs that would provide the physical activity necessary to live a healthy life.16

We do not need to look far to see examples of these disparities among different ethnic groups and lower socioeconomic status, as San Antonio itself is a city with a high percentage of minorities, primarily Hispanics and some blacks. San Antonio recognizes the threat of diabetes. Keeping in mind that being overweight is linked with the development of type 2 diabetes, reports from the CDC show that in San Antonio (more specifically the Bexar county), about 65 percent of the adult population is obese. Out of 32 percent of obese children in San Antonio, 27 percent of them are black and Hispanic with only 12 percent being white.17 Quality of life and well being is also significantly lower in the southern area compared to other sectors of the city. When the city is sorted by racial-ethnic groups, there is a significant gap between blacks and Hispanics reporting lower quality of life compared to whites. The southside of San Antonio makes the lowest median household income of all the San Antonio areas, making 15 to 29 thousand, which is well below the city average of about 60 thousand. With areas in other parts of the city making 105 thousand or more compared to these areas. Most of the people in the southside are minorities living well below the poverty line.18

Diabetes is a problem that will not go away any time soon and one that needs to be addressed. People like Randy are helping fight this disease and are generating exposure for the disparities between minorities and the disease. Even after managing his diabetes and keeping it under control, Randy to this day is an active advocate for diabetes and is currently creating a chain reaction of action among organizations and cities against the disease. San Antonio is doing its best at attempting to solve this issue, knowing that minority groups in poverty stricken areas of the city lack health care, health and nutrition education. The city has set out an initiative to start programs to tackle these issues in order to address diabetes among adults specifically focusing on Hispanics and blacks with the expansion of programs such as Diabetes Prevention and Self-Management. The city is organizing and working together with the San Antonio Diabetes Collaborative to expand these programs to reach those selected groups of people in hopes to improve overall health.19

  1. “Randy Jackson Takes Aim at Diabetes” Bio-Medicine, 2007, http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-1/Randy-Jackson-Takes-Aim-at-Diabetes-2881-1/.
  2. Carolyn Butler, “Randy Jackson,” Diabetes Forecast, February 2009, http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2009/feb/randy-jackson.html.
  3. “Diabetes,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes.
  4. Ann Pietrangelo and Kristeen Cherney, “The Effects of Diabetes on Your Body,” Healthline, June 28, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/effects-on-body#1.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Diabetes,” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, August 8, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444.
  6. Carolyn Butler, “Randy Jackson,” Diabetes Forecast, February 2009, http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2009/feb/randy-jackson.html.
  7. Carolyn Butler, “Randy Jackson,” Diabetes Forecast, February 2009, http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2009/feb/randy-jackson.html.
  8. “Randy Jackson Takes Aim at Diabetes” Bio-Medicine, 2007, http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-1/Randy-Jackson-Takes-Aim-at-Diabetes-2881-1/.
  9. Steve Ferzacca, “Diabetes and Culture,” Annual Review of Anthropology 41, no. 1 (2012): 420-422, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23270719.
  10. “Diabetes.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed September 26, 2019. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes.
  11. Carolyn Butler, “Randy Jackson,” Diabetes Forecast, February 2009, http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2009/feb/randy-jackson.html.
  12. “Randy Jackson Takes Aim at Diabetes” Bio-Medicine, 2007, http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-1/Randy-Jackson-Takes-Aim-at-Diabetes-2881-1/.
  13. “Statistics About Diabetes,” American Diabetes Association, 2017, https://www.diabetes.org/resources/statistics/statistics-about-diabetes#sthash.F8fRkPqd.dpuf.
  14. Ebe D’Adamo, and Sonia Caprio, “Type 2 Diabetes in Youth: Epidemiology and Pathophysiology.” Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association, May 1, 2011, https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/Supplement_2/S161.
  15. Jasmine Burns, H. R. Dillard, and H. R. Dillard, “The Prevalence Of Diabetes In Minority Groups,” The Diabetes Council, September 4, 2018, https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/the-prevalence-of-diabetes-in-minority-groups/.
  16. Jasmine Burns, H. R. Dillard, and H. R. Dillard, “The Prevalence Of Diabetes In Minority Groups.” The Diabetes Council, September 4, 2018, https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/the-prevalence-of-diabetes-in-minority-groups/.
  17. “NCCDPHP: Community Health,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dch/programs/communitiesputtingpreventiontowork/communities/profiles/obesity-tx_sanantonio.htm.
  18. “Healthy Bexar Plan,” City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, 2017, 55-58, 86-89.
  19. “Annual Report (fiscal year 2017-2018),” City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, 12-10-144041-863.

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This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    This article was so informative and insightful to read. I think there is this sort of taboo about having any type of disease especially diabetes and because of that many people are scared to get check ups and tested, let alone seek help from a disease they do not even know they have. Randy’s story is inspiring and admirable.

  2. Avatar

    This article was very informative. Coming from South Texas, I have seen diabetes types 1 and 2 exist as such a vast and detrimental issue among the population. Not only to those that are affected, but also to those that are high risk. Spreading awareness through informative and enjoyable articles such as this one can make all the difference and create a ripple effect.

  3. Avatar

    This article really shed a new light on the topic of diabetes in the modern world. It was interesting hearing the mechanisms of how diabetes affects the body and the different cascading effects that build up to this point in the body. I feel that this is an important issue since diabetes is the one of the leading diseases in the world. Further, giving a face of someone to the disease, through the use of Randy Jackson.

  4. Avatar

    Congratulations on your nomination, Pablo! I never knew that Randy Jackson had diabetes before reading your article, but the fact that he and other celebrities who have it spread awareness of its effects is very reassuring. I think it is very important for us to be educated about diabetes because it is very common. I also think that celebrities spreading awareness of it allows us to understand it and accept it more as a society. Great work!

  5. Avatar

    What a great article. You did a good job at telling the story of Randy Jackson and his experience with Diabetes and giving a lot of information about the disease itself. The side of effects of Type 2 are scary because not a lot of people think much of them until they go to doctor. Living in San Antonio, a city filled with unhealthy fast food restaurants makes this article that much more relevant to me.

  6. Avatar

    I admire Randy for immediately realizing he needed to change his lifestyle and doing things to put his health first. I know from some of my family members that sometimes people don’t take charge and try to get better until a while later when other problems arise. I liked how this article including background on why minority groups have a higher chance of getting the disease.

  7. Avatar

    Very well written informative article. Diabetes is definitely an issue that people need to know more about and do more to treat it. There was a good explanation about the different types of Diabetes. Extensive research was clearly shown, and the title was spot on. Congratulations on a writing a well done article.

  8. Avatar

    Great Article Pablo! Love the title “Don’t Sugarcoat it” as well. I think this is a very important topic to discuss. I believe diabetes is one of the top leading causes of death in America, which is definitely a topic of concern for the community. I never knew how much of an impact it has on San Antonio, and as you said early prevention begins with proper health care and education. Very well researched article!

  9. Avatar

    Pablo,
    Diabetes is an issue that has become more and more common in individuals regardless of where you live and where you come from. The problem with unhealthy foods is that they are so cheap and easy to get, especially late at night when your feeling that urge to eat something. I think many people who are diagnosed initially can relate to Randy when he felt shocked to receive the diagnosis. Diabetes is something that is often talked about and heard about but we never expect it to happen to us, until it does.

  10. Avatar

    This article was really informative and educative for me. Congratulations for taking the time to research and write about such an important topic. Almost all my family has diabetes types 1 and 2 and I needed to inform myself about it. The fact that Hispanics are 66 percent at more risk of having this disease than Caucasians worries me because if I add my family record to this fact, I am actually at high risk of getting this disease. Therefore, it is important for me to act now and take care of my health by eating well and exercising regularly. Also, I did not know about the difference between Diabetes 1 and 2 and now I understand the difference.
    Thank you.

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