Diabetes—particularly type 2 diabetes—is becoming more and more common among people who are overweight and obese.
Diabetes puts people at risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and amputations. Unfortunately, even children are now developing diabetes.
Sugary drinks are part of the problem. Many people drink hundreds of calories per day from soda, fruit drinks, sweet teas, and energy drinks. These are empty calories that have no nutritional value.
Sugary drinks don't make us feel full. We can drink a large sugary drink and then still feel hungry. Over time, they can cause weight gain.
One recent study showed that people who drink 1-2 servings per day were 26% more likely to develop diabetes than those who never have sugary drinks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The two problems that cause diabetes are when:
- Our body doesn't make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels.
- Our body does not respond to insulin.
Over time, high levels of sugar in the blood put stress on our body and can lead to many different problems.
Are there different types of diabetes?
Yes. There are 3 main types of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not make insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels). It generally affects children and adolescents and is a lifelong disease. It is a genetic disease that cannot be prevented. People need to take insulin to control the level of sugar in their blood.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not respond to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels). It generally affects people who are overweight or obese but genetics are also part of the cause. Having a family member with type 2 diabetes increases a person's chance of developing the disease.
In the past, type 2 diabetes affected only adults but is now becoming more common in children because of obesity. Most people need pills (oral medications) to control their diabetes. Some people can control their diabetes by eating more healthfully, exercising, and losing weight.
- Gestational (pregnancy) diabetes occurs in pregnant women. It may be caused by pregnancy hormones that affect how the body responds to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels). It can cause complications for both the mother and the fetus. Women with gestational diabetes have high risk pregnancies, so special medical care is required.
Can children get type 2 diabetes?
Yes. In the past, type 2 diabetes used to only affect adults. But now, as more children are becoming overweight, type 2 diabetes is affecting children, too.
More than one-third of new cases of diabetes in children may be type 2 diabetes. African American and Hispanic children seem to have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Frequent or slow-healing infections
However, many people with type 2 diabetes may not have any symptoms. This is especially true for people who have just developed the disease.
What are the complications of type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes causes over 70,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and nearly 400 deaths per year in Philadelphia.
People with diabetes are 2-4 times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as people without diabetes.
Kidney failure and need for dialysis
Nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. are on dialysis or have had a kidney transplant because of diabetes.
Vision loss and blindness
Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness in the US
Nerve damage (neuropathy) and loss of feeling
Poor blood flow to the feet
Wounds that don't heal, which can lead to bad infections and amputation
Six out of every 10 amputations in the U.S. are due to complications for diabetes.
Men with diabetes are 2-3 times as likely to develop erectile dysfunction as men without diabetes.
How big a problem is type 2 diabetes in Philadelphia?
Nearly 400 Philadelphians per year die of diabetes. It is the 8th leading cause of death in Philadelphia.
Based on national data, diabetes in Philadelphia costs $850 million per year. This is based on the costs of caring for people with diabetes and due to disability, productivity losses, and early death.
Is type 2 diabetes more common among African Americans and Latinos?
Yes. In 2008, 12% of White adults in Philadelphia had diabetes compared to 13% of Latinos and nearly 15% of African Americans.
Compared to Whites, African Americans in Philadelphia were twice as likely to die from diabetes in 2007.
How are sugary drinks linked to type 2 diabetes?
People who are overweight or obese are much more likely to develop diabetes than people at a healthy weight. Sugary drinks are full of empty calories. One 20-ounce soda (the plastic bottles sold in vending machines) has 240 calories. Over time, all these empty calories lead to weight gain. If we drink just one soda per day and keep eating as we normally would, we would drink nearly 90,000 calories in a year and gain 25 pounds!
Americans drink more than double the amount of sugary drinks than they did 25 years ago. Part of the problem is that sugary drinks don't make us feel full even though they are packed with calories. We can drink a large sugary drink and then still feel hungry.
Plus, sugary drinks have so much sugar (glycemic load) that they put a lot of stress on the body to process the sugar. This can lead the body to not respond to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels). Over time, this can lead to diabetes.
Find out more about sugary drinks and diabetes.
Who should get tested for type 2 diabetes?
- Adults over 45
- Overweight adults and children
- Adults with a family history of diabetes
- Anyone with symptoms
- Women who have had gestational diabetes.
- Anyone who has ever had a high blood sugar level
Find out your risk for diabetes with the Diabetes Risk Calculator .
Find your nearest health care center.
How can type 2 diabetes be prevented?
The best thing you can do to prevent type 2 diabetes is maintain a healthy weight.
If you are overweight, even lowering your weight by 5-10% (10- 20 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds) can significantly lower your risk for diabetes! Try to do the following things:
- Exercise regularly. Even brief walking throughout the day can be helpful.
- Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meat. Try not to overeat!
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Know your risk for diabetes
- Get tested for diabetes
Find out more about how to prevent type 2 diabetes.
How is type 2 diabetes treated?
First, make sure you have a good primary care doctor or nurse that can work with you. If you don't have a primary care provider or don't have health insurance, free or low cost medical care is available throughout Philadelphia.
Eat healthy, exercise, and get to a healthy weight. Even lowering your weight by 5-10% (10- 20 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds) may allow you to control your diabetes without medications.
Involve your family, loved ones, and friends. It's easier to make changes in our life when we have support and motivation from the people around us. Plus, these people may be at risk for diabetes, too.
Most people with diabetes need to be on medications. Your primary care doctor or nurse can help you figure out the right medications for you. There are pills that help lower your blood sugar and other pills that control how your body responds to sugar. Some people with severe diabetes may need to take injections of insulin.
Find out more about how you can treat diabetes.
What should I do if I think I may have type 2 diabetes?
Where can I find out more?