Oh, Dr. Oz, what has happened that you are adding to the myths of diabetes? For you to say, "Type 1 is also called juvenile diabetes and you are born with it" here on the HuffPost? Type 1 has not been called juvenile diabetes for years, says pediatric endocrinologist Francine Kaufman in her book, Diabesity: The Obesity-Diabetes Epidemic That Threatens America, and much more important, you are not necessarily born with it. According to the International Diabetes Federation "The disease can affect people of any age." Further, the American Diabetes Association says, "Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and young adults." You've continued the myths and confusion about diabetes that you began on Oprah's show last week, "Diabetes: America's Silent Killer."
I got type 1 at 18. My friend Paula at 20, Alyssa at 10, Ruth at 37, Blake at 29, Kelly at 8, Will at 2, Phyllis at 58 and on and on. I've interviewed 140 people with diabetes and don't know a soul who was born with type 1. I worked with 21 leading diabetes experts on my book Debunking Diabetes Myths and the experts say you are not born with type 1 diabetes. Gerald Bernstein, M.D. is the Director of the Diabetes Management Program at Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. He says, "You are not born with type 1 diabetes. Rather, a chromosomal abnormality that you are born with may put you at risk for type 1."
And why in the world would you use Laureen, a type 1 whose poor control left her a double amputee and on dialysis, as the poster girl for type 2 diabetes? Was this just a dramatic scare tactic? You have to know fear is not motivating for long.
Then, over her bedside you asked Laureen, " Why do you think there are almost 60 million pre-diabetics who aren't taking it seriously?" and, "What would you say to the people who say, "I just have a little bit of sugar?" as if Laureen's fate will surely be theirs.
Countless in the diabetes community are stunned, and livid, about the hurried and confusing information that was delivered on the Oprah show blurring the lines between type 1 and type 2. Blogs and posts could barely contain their outrage:
Kerri Sparling, Type 1 patient-expert, sixuntilme
"Why show a type 1 diabetic with serious complications, and then say that diabetes is the fastest growing disease in the country? You need to specify that diet and exercise, or lack thereof, did not cause Laureen's type 1 diabetes. Yet you want people to see the horrible effects of type 1 diabetes on her body and then say that a generalized "diabetes" is an epidemic. Type 1 is not an epidemic. Type 2 diabetes is. And thanks to your mishandling of the facts, ignorance now joins the epidemic status as well."
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, Oprah Does Diabetes, But the Diagnosis? Fair to Poor
"Over the next 40 minutes disappointment and, at times, dismay set in:
- Oprah: Was it necessary to be so negative - using a double amputee on dialysis as your example of a person with type 1 (and only people who know the difference could put two and two together on this fact because Dr. Oz didn't help) when there are thousands of everyday people doing a stellar job dealing with the trials and tribulations of type 1 diabetes?
- Oprah: Was it so important use Dr. Oz, Dr. Smith, Bob Greene as the all-knowing diabetes gurus vs. a panel of highly trained, well qualified diabetes experts who could present the facts accurately and cogently?
Dr. Oz was nothing but confusing throughout the show. He couldn't even clearly explain the differences between type 1 and 2! He listed the symptoms of diabetes but failed to mention that most people with pre-diabetes or type 2 don't ever have symptoms prior to diagnosis. And Bob Greene: Where did he get his nutrition expertise? He shared utter nutrition fallacies - the most egregious was that vinegar lowered the glycemic index of foods!"
You also managed to unnecessarily scare millions of parents of type 1 children, and loved ones of type 1s. Today we have the information, resources and tools to better prevent what happened to Laureen. But, again, you didn't mention that. Missed opportunity.
Even in your article, Dr. Oz, you say early on that type 1 is not reversible, but later you say, "90 percent of diabetes is preventable and the symptoms are reversible" making no distinction between type 1 and 2. More confusion for an already confused public.
As a doctor your first job is to do no harm, yet you did. Continuing the myths already out there and creating confusion is extremely harmful. Yes, poorly controlled diabetes can be devastating and most people with type 2 diabetes already have the risk factors for cardiovascular disease - all the more reason the 57 million people with pre-diabetes and nearly 24 million with type 2 diabetes, including we nearly 3 million with type 1 diabetes, need accurate, life-saving information.
You say in USA Today, that your main goal was to give people a wake-up call about diabetes, but that goal should never be at the expense of accurate medical information. You could have done both and, disappointingly, you did not.
I urge you, Dr. Oz, to set the record straight here, on your TV program and Oprah's. Now that really would serve the public good!
Follow Riva Greenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/diabetesmyths