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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Celebrities with Diabetes or with Prediabetes   (October 9, 2013)

I wouldn’t be surprised if most of our readers have learned one-way-or-another in the last day or two that actor Tom Hanks recently revealed to The Late Show television host David Letterman that he (Tom) has recently been diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes at age 57, after having high blood sugars since age 36. A video clip from the October 7 show is available at YouTube; Tom’s admission is at the very first minute.

But David topped Tom: “A nice message to others: I suffer from the high blood sugar; had to go on a special diet myself.”

So, Tom Hanks had pre-diabetes for 20+ years. David Letterman has pre-diabetes also.  Additional documentation of David’s situation is also on YouTube (from a few years ago), when David grilled another celebrity, Alec Baldwin, about Alec’s weight loss. Alec semi-jokingly said he was “allergic to sugar” but later admitted his physician had told him he was prediabetic. After more half-hearted questioning, David eventually admitted that he too “might be prediabetic or is prediabetic” and should “cut back on the sugar.” But as I looked at the clip, it appeared to me that David didn’t seem at all concerned with his diagnosis, nor did he seem motivated to adjust his eating patterns, as Alec definitely was.

Celebrities, like everyone else, have different coping strategies for dealing with, and informing others about, their health. At one extreme, there’s rock star Bret Michaels, who  was on the television series "Celebrity Apprentice"; his charity for the show was the American Diabetes Association. And Mary Tyler Moore, who has supported the JDRF for years.

On the other side are the silent types, such as Vinnie Politan, a commentator for the Headline News network, who only very rarely mentions that he has type 1 diabetes. And actress Halle Berry, who seems to have been diagnosed initially as type 1, but later apparently claimed she was type 2 (and who may have one of the variants of diabetes that are lumped into the unofficial category “type 1-and-a-half”).

Then there are the cash-in types, such as celebrity cooking show hostess Paula Deen, who silently suffered from her diabetes until she found she could land a contract pitching a diabetes drug. The NY Times quotes an unnamed source as saying "Ms. Deen was paid $6 million for a two-year contract to promote Victoza."

The celebrities who are willing to discuss their diabetes frequently end up as cover stories in Diabetes Forecast: Bret Michaels, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, and many others.

I’m hoping that Tom Hanks decides to become a diabetes advocate, and I'm looking forward to the chance to see him on the cover of Diabetes Forecast in the near future.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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