Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Halle Berry, diabetes, and pregnancy

When I was searching for Halle Berry's quote about diabetes being a gift, I found a lot of celeb gossip that I hadn't been aware of previously: Apparently, she created quite a stir last fall by claiming that she had been cured of type 1 diabetes.

Of course, all of us with type 1 diabetes know that there isn't a cure — yet. Type 1 diabetes is caused when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas die, which is a permanent problem. Usually this is caused by an auto immune response, where the body's immune system — for whatever reason — decides to attack the pancreas. However, I have also known of people who are technically type 1 diabetics, in that their bodies can't produce their own insulin, but who became that way via other means (i.e. alcoholism, exposure to chemicals used during the Vietnam War, etc.).

A possible cure for type 1 diabetes that is being explored right now is islet cell transplants. The problem with this is that until researchers find a way to stop the auto immune response, the body simply kills the new cells, requiring the procedure to be repeated periodically.

I don't think that Halle Berry's "cure" is from islet cell transplants, as some people have suggested. Rather, I think that it has to do with her pregnancy. I've heard from type 1 diabetic mothers that their insulin needs drop off significantly, and sometimes entirely, while they are pregnant. My old nutritionist, who specialized in working with diabetics, said the same thing.

I'm surprised that the "experts" used for this ABC News article didn't think of this possibility, but I guess this just goes to show how much confusion there still is regarding diabetes.

Berry's baby was born on March 16th. It is my guess that the happy mother will soon find (if she hasn't already) that her blood sugars are rising, despite the diet that "cured" her during her pregnancy. Whether she will publicize her mistake — now that's another matter entirely.

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