Diabetes is a devastating disease in which either the pancreas produces insufficient insulin or the body does not react to the insulin that is produced. As you already know, insulin is a chemical involved in the metabolism of blood sugar, thus ensuring that sugar can be used by the body. With diabetes, blood sugar levels become abnormally high and excess sugar is excreted in the urine.
You're probably wondering why I chose to include a chapter on diabetes. Obviously the integral relationship between diabetes and insulin has something to do with my reasoning. In previous chapters you've learned about the important role that insulin plays in hunger, satiety, and fat storage. In this chapter you'll learn that the origins, effects, and treatment of diabetes are also linked to many other topics in this book, including the preference for sweet, the importance of exercise in obesity, weight maintenance, thirst, and the effects of food on cognition.
We need to use everything that we know about the psychology of eating and drinking to understand diabetes because of the terribly frequent harm that this disease is inflicting on people in industrialized countries, particularly the United States. The number and percentage of people in the United States with diabetes has been increasing astronomically. In 1958, there were only about 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with this disease, but in 1999 there were about 9 million diagnosed American diabetics. 1 Some authorities estimate that the total number of Americans with the disease is now about 16 million. 2 In 1998, 6.5% of all Americans were estimated to have diabetes, at a yearly cost of around $100 billion. Although diabetes was formerly seen primarily in older people, it's now becoming