Blood Sugar Rising: A PBS Documentary

If you’ve been studying some of the reports during the Chinese Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, and following my blog, you know how much more at risk people are who have pre-existing conditions. Two of the biggest contributing conditions to placing people at higher risk of severe symptoms and possible death from COVID-19 are obesity (high BMI) and diabetes.

The PBS documentary “Blood Sugar Rising” is a powerful video highlighting the incredible and disturbing increase in diabetes among Americans. What makes it so powerful is how it explains the size & scale of this epidemic, the personal trials and tribulations of sufferers from the disease, and a passionate drive toward innovative medical solutions.

Size & Scale

In a country with approximately 330 million people, it is estimated that close to 120 million people have diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) or are pre-diabetic. Think about that for a minute. Over 1 in 3 people in our country have a serious issue with blood sugar.

According to the CDC, of the 34 million people who have Type 1 or 2 diabetes, over 90% have Type 2, and the incidence of pre-diabetes (the precursor to Type 2) is becoming more prevalent in younger Americans.

  • 1 in 5 youths between 12 – 18 are pre-diabetic
  • 1 in 4 young adults between 19 – 34 are pre-diabetic
  • Estimates (covered in the documentary) are by 2025, if we continue at the rate we are seeing new diabetes cases, 50% of the U.S. population will have diabetes or be pre-diabetic

It is estimated that the diabetes care, treatment and medication costs are $350 billion per year, which includes both direct treatment costs as well as indirect impact costs (such as lost productivity).

The death toll in the U.S. from COVID-19 has surpassed 57,000 as of April 28, 2020, a tragic number in the range of how many people die from influenza or flu-like complications every year. In comparison, the U.S. loses 10X this many Americans from heart disease and 1.5X this many Americans from diabetes…every year! So, if we are shocked at the loss of life from the pandemic, how should we be reacting to the appalling loss of life associated with heart disease and diabetes?

Personal Trials & Challenges

The personal stories in the documentary are heartbreaking. From a young woman who is losing her sight and is in-line for a kidney and pancreas replacement; to an aspiring male artist who is struggling to prevent his toe from being amputated while trying to be a role model to his young son; to a care-giver taking in-depth interest in her community to help people lead healthier lives through improved dietary choices; to a high-schooler preparing to go to college and planning with his family how he will manage his Type 1 diabetes. What is abundantly clear is diabetes affects more than just the sufferer.


Certainly, advances have been made to help people with diabetes better manage the disease through less invasive and more stabilizing monitoring techniques. One of the stories involves a father, whose son is a Type 1 diabetic, working to develop a system of glucose and blood sugar monitoring that can essentially duplicate the function of a pancreas that can be worn on the outside.


We MUST change our eating and dietary habits. Our extreme consumption of sugary products, processed foods and heavy starches is causing a non-stop cycle of insulin production, fat accumulation, inflammation, and internal aging…all of which leads to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, dementia and even some cancer. With obesity, diabetes and heart disease having such a direct linkage to dietary and lifestyle choices, we have to make significant and far reaching changes to what/how we eat, how we live and how we move. At the rate we are going, our society will see a steady average life-span decline, a significant quality of life decline for all generations, and the cost of healthcare will absolutely crater our economy.