9 Celebrities With Type 1 Diabetes
Famous faces of type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is the least common type of diabetes, making up about 4% of all diabetes cases in the U.S., but it is also the most serious. While type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed with diet and exercise alone, type 1 requires daily insulin because the body does not produce its own.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and teens (which is why it used to be called juvenile diabetes) but it can strike anyone–including the rich and famous.
Being diagnosed at age 12 with type 1 diabetes was a “hard blow,” recalled celebrity chef Sam Talbot in a 2015 blog post. His mother followed him to sports practice with a glucose meter, and he couldn’t go anywhere without a juice box. His career as a chef and restaurateur has given him more creative ideas to combat both low and high blood sugar. He recommends organic fruit leather and honey sticks for low episodes. A green smoothie peppered with cinnamon or turmeric can combat the highs, as can five minutes of jumping jacks. He keeps fresh pineapple, carrot, and beet juice in the kitchen at his Brooklyn restaurant, Pretty Southern, and co-founded the non-profit Beyond Type 1 to raise diabetes awareness.
Musician Nick Jonas is Sam Talbot’s partner in founding Beyond Type 1. Jonas discovered he had diabetes in 2005 when he was touring with the Jonas Brothers. He dropped 15 pounds in no time, couldn’t get enough water, and his emotions were up, down, and everywhere, People reported. Today, Jonas checks his blood sugar before every performance to make sure there are no surprises when he’s on stage. Kids with diabetes call him “Mr. Positive.” He’s even written a song about his condition called “A Little Bit Longer.”
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The nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 7 years old. The signs? She fainted in church and drank so much water she actually wet her bed, she said in a 2011 speech, as USA Today reported. This was in the early 1960s, and she had to learn how to sterilize her own needles (big, reusable ones) in boiling water. There were also no glucose monitors, so she had to test her urine for sugar levels. Life with diabetes today is easier: Sotomayor checks her blood sugar every morning before she approaches the bench. If she needs to, she can give herself a quick insulin shot and be fine for hours.
Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore is arguably as well known for her role in raising awareness of type 1 diabetes as she is for her groundbreaking roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Diagnosed at the relatively late age of 33, she lived for 47 years with the condition before her death in January 2017. That lifespan is testament to the power of type 1 diabetes treatment combined with a healthy lifestyle to stave off diabetes complications such a blindness and kidney disease. “I need insulin to stay alive. It’s just therapy to keep going,” she said on Larry King Live in 2005. “What I can do is make sure that I keep my blood sugar down to a reasonable level. I can exercise, and I can eat properly. And insulin plays a very big part in that.”
At first, Anne Rice was dropping pounds at an alarming rate. Not that the author of The Vampire Chronicles was that upset; the scales had been heading too high for a while. But there were other signs: stomach cramps after she ate, crying and peeing a lot, and writer’s block. Then came a day she doesn’t remember when, people later told her, she was having trouble breathing, smelled like fruit, and took off all her clothes, she wrote in the New York Times in 2004. These were signs she had ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes that involves the buildup of acids called ketones in the blood. She ended up on a ventilator in the emergency room, minutes away from cardiac arrest. Now she monitors her blood sugar, takes insulin, and can write again.
The star of the ‘80s sitcom Designing Women and frequent guest on 24 was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13. Over the years, she has discovered that hormones, food, and stress can all mess with her blood sugar levels, so she strives for balance, trying not to worry even about fluctuating glucose levels. “That would only make it worse,” she told a senate committee on aging in 2013. She was appearing with Nathan Lane on Broadway when she had one of her closest calls with low blood sugar. “Luckily the scene ended just in time,” she told the committee. “Since then, I make a habit of stashing jelly beans all over the set.”
Diabetes nearly derailed Crystal Bowersox’s singing career. During the 2010 season of American Idol, she developed diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes, and almost went into a coma. The show’s producer visited her in the hospital and told her she was out of the competition, but she begged to keep her spot. “No way I’ve come this far to let diabetes stop me!” The producer relented. Bowersox, who was diagnosed at age 6, has only been hospitalized twice since getting an insulin pump in 2003. The other time was when her cat chewed through the insulin tube during the night, she told Diabetes Mine in 2010.
Singer Elliott Yamin experienced the telltale signs of diabetes when he was 16: He was exhausted all the time and kept going to the bathroom. His mother has diabetes and suspected he did too. When she checked his blood sugar, it clocked in at 680, six or seven times normal. Since then, he has stayed prepared for low blood sugar episodes by keeping juice and glucose tablets nearby. Once, though, Yamin felt his blood sugar dropping while he was performing. “The closest thing around was a 12-ounce can of Coke,” he told Beyond Type 1. “I sipped it quickly, but I couldn’t stop burping through the next couple of songs! I kept having to pull away from the mic while singing. It was pretty funny.”
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Halle Berry won an Oscar for her role in Monster’s Ball and has made memorable performances in X-Men and Die Another Day. But her most memorable health episode was while appearing on an earlier television show, ABC’s Living Dolls. She collapsed during filming, went into a coma, and later learned that she had type 1 diabetes. In 2007, she raised eyebrows by stating that she had “managed to wean” herself off of insulin. It’s unlikely anyone with type 1 would be able to do that, so doctors think Berry may have had type 2 diabetes all along. If you have type 1, your body cannot produce any insulin at all, so you have to take insulin every day to stay alive.