The Oddly Interesting Trajectory Of Diabetes

Trajectory Of Diabetes

Did you know that consuming poison and having extreme levels of sugar in  your body does nearly the same harm? Diabetes is rightly called the silent killer, this much that an average person can live with it for upto 10 years without noticing any stark symptoms. However, diabetes is not a new phenomenon, it has been a matter of concern since thousands of years for scientists and physicians who have been documenting the conditions to discover what we know so far.Given that this is the month of Diabetes awareness, we take you through this silent killer that is pacing at an alarming rate in India. And before we could come to today’s understanding of diabetes, understanding its history is vital and oddly interesting.

The beginning in Egypt

As early as in 1552 B.C, an Egyptian physician Hesy-Ra was intrigued to record that frequent urination was a condition for an unknown disease that caused emaciation. This is evidently the first mention of diabetes since the time human civilisation came into existence. After that, there have been frequent mentions of the disease where the ancient healers claimed that one could spot the disease if ants are attracted to their urine. Another statement came on record in 150 AD by the Greek physician Arateus who named it ‘diabetes’ and described the disease as “the melting down of flesh and limbs into urine”, which basically brought in notice the severe weakness and weight loss associated with the disease. It is then when the disease took the front seat for research amongst the various physicians and further led to various interesting (rather weird) techniques to detect the disease – one being the water tasters.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

Water tasters were 1675’s Glucometers

Fairly odd to know that around 1675 there were human detectors that used to taste urine to tell whether or not the person is suffering from the disease. If it were sweet, then it was positive to the now termed diabetes. Followed by which the word ‘Mellitus’ was added to the name diabetes by  Thomas Willis making it ‘Diabetes Mellitus’ where Mellitus signifies the honey-like sweetness associated with the urine.

Blood diagnosis for diabetes is a gift by ancient Indians

It was Indians who recognised that not only urine but blood also had sweetness because of excess sugar levels in the body, which later became a vital aspect for diagnosing the disease.

Photo Credits: PhotosHistoriques

1970s Franco-Prussian War highlighted nutrition as a treatment

During the war, the French physician Apollinaire Bouchardat noted that diabetic symptoms have reduced in patients due to limited rationing. It was  a revelation that led to various fad diets of the early 1900s, namely ‘oat-cure’,  ‘potato therapy’, and the ‘starvation diet’ where one thing common in all was limited and thoughtful eating habits. On basis of that, in the year 1916, Boston scientist Elliott Joslin created a book ‘The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus’ that claimed fasting diet and regular exercise being significant ways to reduce the risk of death in diabetes patients. Even today, a lot of studies still depend on its principles. 

1875’s revolutionary discovery: the role of the liver

It is that time where experimental medicines started to regulate to find a cure for the disease but the prime discovery was the role of liver in glycogenesis, which gave the concept that diabetes is due to excess glucose production.

The chapter of insulin

Further in 1889 the role got refined to pancreas’ act in pathogenesis of diabetes and lead insulin as the basis of the study. It happened when researchers at the University of Strasbourg in France, Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering proved that the removal of a dog’s pancreas could induce diabetes. Thereafter, many experiments like injecting pancreatic extracts into patient’s pancreas reinforced the study. In 1920, the theory to use insulin to treat diabetes rise by using it on animals which later made Frederick Banting and his team Nobel Prize winners in medicines for successfully treating a diabetic patient.

Now in 2019 where we have dived deep into the disease insulin prevails as the primary medicine for treating all types of diabetes. Thanks to glucometers that water tasters no more exist and also a great relief for the advance researches that people no more depend on horseback riding, which was earlier thought to relieve excessive urination and cure diabetes. To conclude, there is a million of million population that now has diabetes but one more thing common is that they might still be unaware of this interesting trajectory of evolution.

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