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Panel Discusses Diabetes

Aired May 20, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, diabetes, millions have it. Many don't even know it. It can strike from nowhere, cause blindness, lead to amputation, can even kill. Della Reese has it. And the "Touched By An Angel" star worries diabetes could become an epidemic to America's young people.
Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, diabetes once made her comatose during a beauty pageant. Jerry Mathers, star of the legendary show "Leave It To Beaver" is living with diabetes, too; and so is the Emmy winning actor, Robert Guillaume. As for the actress Morgan Fairchild, her mother and uncle both died of diabetes related complications. Also with us, Dr. Anne Peters, the renowned pioneer in diabetes treatment and management.

This is an hour that could save your life or make life a whole lot better for someone you love. It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We have an outstanding panel, an important topic, your calls later. And Dr. Peters, is the renowned pioneer, director of the University of Southern California Clinical Diabetes program, and is the author of a terrific new book, "Conquering Diabetes." There you see its cover. A cutting-edge comprehensive program for prevention and treatment.

So, well start with Dr. Peters -- Dr. Peters, rather.

What is diabetes? What does the word mean?

DR. ANNE PETERS, DIABETES TREATMENT & MANAGEMENT PIONEER: I think diabetes is a Greek word that means to stand asunder. And it had to do with people way back when, when they would urinate a lot they would stand asunder into the urinal, or whatever they were peeing into, and diabetes is associated with an increased risk of urination that happens because there is excess sugar in the blood.

KING: Why are there two types?

PETERS: There are two types because there are two ways you can get diabetes. Type I means that your body has basically undergone what we call an autoimmune process, something that has destroyed the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

Type II diabetes is the type that most people that you see will have. It's the kind of diabetes that both is genetic, that most people have family members with it, and it's also caused by becoming insulin resistant. That is, inactive, overweight, getting older. All of those things make the body use insulin less well.

KING: Type I needs the insulin injection, right?

PETERS: Type I means you need insulin injection for the rest of your life, yes.

KING: And it's called juvenile. Is that because it starts younger?

PETERS: It used to be called juvenile but now my oldest patient with new onset Type I is 93 years old. So I wouldn't call that juvenile.

KING: Why did you specialize in it?

PETERS: Because I love people. And I love diseases that involve all different systems. And I love diseases that require you know people throughout their lives.

KING: Della Reese, is by the way, not only a victim of this, she's a paid spokesperson for the diabetes drug Avandia. And her Web site is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline who make that drug.

How did you know you had it?

DELLA REESE, ACTRESS, LIVING WITH DIABETES: I didn't know. Nobody in my family has ever had it. I had no symptoms. One day I'm coming down the stairs and it was like somebody hit me in the head with a hammer. It came. I don't know how long it stayed, but as quickly as it came, it left.

I got up and went on to work. Hair, makeup, wardrobe; and went to work. And while I was working, conducting a choir for Wynonna Judd, I just didn't hear anything. I heard him say action. I heard nothing else. I heard him say cut. And when he did, I was standing on this platform, and I knew that I should hold on to something.

And I got down off the platform and held onto this fence. And the director saw me and said, what's wrong with Della? They said, nothing. Because you know I clown all the time. He said, no, something's wrong with her. And he called paramedics. That's how I knew.

KING: What was she having?

PETERS: Well, I have no earthly idea what she was having. But she was sick.

KING: I mean, but is that something common with Type II diabetes?

PETERS: Well, the problem with Type II diabetes is that there are so many things that can happen, so many parts of the body that can be involved. The heart, you can have strokes. You can have trouble with your eyes. You can have all sorts of problems. KING: It can affect lots of things?

PETERS: Yes. But most people who have it don't have any symptoms for a very long time. So when someone is diagnosed, we actually think they've had it for seven to 10 years already.

KING: Your host included.


KING: Robert Guillaume, how did you -- you suffered a stroke.


KING: Is that what told you, you had diabetes?

GUILLAUME: No. I didn't find that out until a few years later. I found out -- I had decided I would stay in the bed for about three or four days. I was just -- I had no energy. Just complete lassitude. So my wife, Donna, finally said, listen, we got to get you out of here, because this isn't right.

So I went to the doctor. I went to the hospital. And they found out that my sugar count, whatever it -- was 717. And the doctor said, "And he's still walking?" And 717, you can compare it to -- 108 is acceptable, 101 something. That's acceptable, 108, 104, 115 maybe. 717!

KING: How are you here?

GUILLAUME: That's what I don't know. That's -- I can't figure.


KING: Is that as high as it gets?

PETERS: I've seen higher, but that'll do.

KING: Now, Morgan, you lost family members, right, to it?


KING: Your mother?

FAIRCHILD: My mother and my uncle.

KING: Both died of it?

FAIRCHILD: They died of complications of complications of it in one way or another. My mother had a series of strokes. That's how she ended up passing away. I think that's very common with people with diabetes. It's one of the problems with this disease. It's sort of insidious. It sets you up for a lot of other things. So on the death certificate it may say heart attack, it may say stroke, it may say something else. But it's a very debilitating disease. She had had it for a while before she had the stroke. And we knew that she had it. KING: Every time I see of a death where it says just complications, it never just says from diabetes, it is always complications of diabetes.

PETERS: Well, But that's -- you die from what we call macrovascular or big blood vessel complications, from heart attacks or strokes?

KING: You don't die from actually the diabetes?

PETERS: Not usually. You can, but generally you die from the complications of diabetes which, I might add, are preventable. And that's what's so important.

KING: We're going to get to that. Nicole Johnson, in Pittsburgh is Miss America 1999. She has Type I diabetes. She's a paid consultant for the Animus Corporation, an insulin pump manufacturer and she's paid ambassador for Eli Lilly's Partnership In Diabetes Program and is co-host of DLifeTV, a weekly CNBC series about living with diabetes.

How early did you discover you had Type I?

NICOLE JOHNSON, FMR. MISS AMERICA, LIVING WITH DIABETES: I was a college student. I was 19. And as you've heard already, I was feeling some of the same symptoms, the lethargy, being very tired. I was drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom all the time. But I was actually misdiagnosed three times before they realized it was diabetes wreaking havoc on my body.

KING: How do you treat it now?

JOHNSON: I actually use insulin daily through an insulin pump. I started out on injections --

KING: It pumps it in automatically?

JOHNSON: Yes. It's kind of like an IV drip of insulin. I get one shot every three days instead of four or five every day. It is like an artificial organ on the outside of my body, which has helped me tremendously. Because it gives me flexibility to manage this condition.

KING: Is her life expectancy less because of this, doctor?

PETERS: Not as long as she keeps taking good care of herself.

KING: So Type I can reduce life expectancy, right?

PETERS: Both types can significantly reduce life expectancy. But, again, if you treat it well it, doesn't have to.

KING: Jerry, how did you discover you had Type II?

JERRY MATHERS, LIVING WITH DIABETES: I had a very good friend that was a doctor and I finished doing "The New Leave It To Beaver" and I thought, you know what, I'm going to retire lead the good life. And the good life, to me, was going out to restaurants. And I had a problem with portion control and put on a lot of weight; I put on about 45 pounds.

And this friend of mine, she kept saying, come in for a checkup. You're getting to be almost 50. In a couple more years you are going to be 50, you need a checkup. Like most men I think I said, you know what? I go and see you when I'm sick. I feel great. She took me in, and finally cajoled me enough and said -- I took the physical.

Called me back three days later and said you have kids, don't you? I said yes. She said how would you like to see them graduate from high school? I said, that'd be great. And she said how'd you like to see them get married and have grandchildren? I said that will be terrific. She said if you don't do something about your diabetes you'll be dead in three to five years.

So, right then, I knew I had to do something.

KING: When we come back, we'll find out why this is such a mystery. Why it doesn't give you any pre-clues. We'll be taking your calls as well. The topic is diabetes. It affects millions. Don't go away.


LARRY: How did you first learn you had it?

MARY TYLER MOORE, INT'L. CHMN, JUVENILE DIABETES RESEARCH FDN.: I was 30 years old. I had had a miscarriage. And I was in the hospital. And they did a routine blood test on me. And a normal range for blood sugar is anywhere from 75 to 110. And mine was 750. In fact, I made it into a medical book, not as Mary Tyler Moore but some other name, because they couldn't figure out how it is that I was still walking around and functioning at that high a level. They put me on insulin almost immediately. And I've been lucky.

I've had a scrape with death a few times and some threats out there, losing a toe, losing my eyesight. Fortunately, neither of those things has happened, but there are compromises.



KING: We're back. Our topic is diabetes. One question, Nicole. You said you were misdiagnosed. Misdiagnosed, what did they say you had?

JOHNSON: I was --

KING: I can't hear Nicole.

JOHNSON: The first medical professional said that I was vitamin deficient and I needed iron supplements. But that didn't work. Then I was given medication and told that I had the Beijing flu. And then the third time they thought that I had appendicitis because I was having extreme abdominal pain. So they took me to the hospital with the thought of removing my appendix. That's when they noticed that my blood sugar was over 500 and diabetes was the problem.

KING: Which leads us to the question, Dr. Peters, is it misdiagnosed a lot? And why don't we get enough pre-warning?

PETERS: It's misdiagnosed way too often, which is why I wrote the book. In fact, people can ask to get it diagnosed. But I've had patients had diabetes, had a high blood sugar in their doctor's office, say a fasting of 150, which is too high. And the doctors say don't worry about it. I see amazing things all the time in terms of misdiagnosing diabetes or a young person like Nicole who they go in and say it's a vitamin deficiency or it's something that, you know -- I had a patient similar to you who actually had surgery and didn't notice that her blood sugar was 500.

KING: And you can have it for years and not know it, right?


KING: It doesn't give you a warning?

PETERS: No. That's the message, is that it should never hurt. And you can find it early and do something.

KING: By doing what?

PETERS: By taking good care of it.

KING: But how do you find it early?

PETERS: Well, you find it early by knowing if you're at risk for it. So if you have a family history of it, if you're African-American, Latino or American Indian, if you have high blood pressure, if you've had a heart attack, if I had abnormal triglyceride levels, if you have had gestational diabetes -- a whole list of things.

KING: Well, we've about reached the world.

PETERS: That's what I say.

KING: Every African-American is at greater risk?


REESE: Yes. But the problem with that is that Afro-Americans and Latinos don't have any information. That was my problem. When I found out about it, it was like the kiss of death, because all the information I had was negative. All I knew about it was Ella Fitzgerald lost her legs and died. Mable King lost her legs and died. You know?

KING: Why are there amputations?

PETERS: Because what happens with diabetes is that it damages the nerves that go down to the feet. And that happens over time from the high blood sugar levels and it also clogs up the arteries that go down to the feet with cholesterol. So your feet can no longer feel and you are no longer getting good blood.

So if you get a cut or a little sore on the bottom of your feet, then infection can start to spread, and then it can spread to the bone and then you end up with an amputation.

KING: What about the eyes?

PETERS: The eyes get damaged from chronic exposure to high blood sugar levels. Those very fragile little blood vessels in the back of the eye, and those get damaged.

KING: Lead to blindness?


KING: Jackie Robinson was -- died of diabetes at age 53, blind.

PETERS: It's the leading cause of blindness in adults in America.

KING: When you heard your mother had it, were you scared or was she scared, because it's such a common kind of word, diabetes?

FAIRCHILD: I think she was scared because she didn't really know what it meant. And, also, just in following up what Dr. Peters said, too, one of the problems that I saw with my mother that I think I warn all of my friends who now have parents that have diabetes is to make sure they're not falling.

It becomes a real problem, because they can't feel. Their feet don't feel and you have to feel to balance. And so you start having falling problems, which especially with older women who might be prone to osteoporosis. You don't want them falling. It was a big deal for my mother to have to start using a cane. She didn't want to use a cane. But that's part of it is just looking out for those kinds of things to make sure that you're doing the proper upkeep.

KING: What do you do for it, Robert?

GUILLAUME: What do I do for mine? I -- abstinence as much as I can.

KING: From sugar products?

GUILLAUME: From sugar products.

KING: Because of the stroke, you can't exercise, can you?

GUILLAUME: Oh, yes, I do.

KING: You do? You can exercise?

GUILLAUME: I do quite a bit of exercise.

KING: Exercise very important?

PETERS: Very important.

GUILLAUME: But, now, does it not manifest itself at all? I mean, is that a -- is not -- I mean something as simple as excessive dry skin? Would that not be a manifestation of it?

PETERS: It can be. But most of the time, what happens is, is people didn't know they were having it. They didn't know they were getting it. And when you treat them and you get their blood sugars back down to 100, they say, oh, gee, that tiredness, dry skin, funny taste, whatever it was, is now better. So didn't come to me saying they had those symptoms. They came because some doctor found their blood sugar high. And in retrospect they know they had the symptoms.

I think that pretty much everybody who is over the age of 45 needs to wonder if they're going to get diabetes. And then everybody who has family members or is of a high-risk group needs to get tested.

KING: How do you treat yours, Jerry?

MATHERS: Diet and exercise. It's been 10 years. I found out I had it, it was very, very bad. I lost a lot of weight and I came back within the parameters. And that will do it. Today, I run about an hour and a half.

KING: Are there a lot of good medications, too?

PETERS: There are wonderful medications, but diet and exercise is always a part of the treatment of diabetes.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll talk about the future of stem cell research as it might affect diabetes. And then we'll take your phone calls. We'll be right back.


WILFORD BRIMLEY, ACTOR, HAS DIABETES: I thought I had cancer. I lost about 25 pounds in three weeks. And I had an unquenchable thirst. My tongue felt like a horseshoe rasp. I couldn't get enough to drink. I would wake up -- well, I never went to sleep, because I'd get up and urinate like every 30 minutes during the night.

And finally, my son said, look, you know, you're either going to find out what's the matter with you or I'm going to drag you in there. And I was diagnosed with diabetes.


KING: We're back. Dr. Peters, news out of South Africa -- no, South Korea. Stem cell research advances. Will it someday cure diabetes?

PETERS: I sure hope so. But I think everyone has to be realistic about stem cells in that they will cure certain things potentially, but we're a long way from actually using them in actual human disease. So stem cells, for instance, have the potential for giving back missing islet cells in Type I diabetes. But one of the problems is the body is rejected its own islet cells, so it may reject the stem cells. And so there's a lot of steps between here and cure.

KING: Do you think we'll ever cure it? Never say never, but do you think reasonable future?

PETERS: I really hope so.

KING: Hope is -- do you think so?

PETERS: I think we can treat it. I just don't know that we're going to cure it within the next 20 years. I think someday we'll cure it.

FAIRCHILD: But Larry, I think the most interesting part of it is so much of Type II diabetes is preventable, really. We're talking about curing. But preventing by maintaining a proper diet. I mean, America has this explosion of obesity going on right now. And in younger and younger people, we're seeing obese children. And we're seeing a huge increase in obesity and diabetes in younger and younger kids, and Type II diabetes, not necessarily just Type I.

KING: Are you concerned about weight, Della?

REESE: Yes, and I'm working on it. I've lost 30 pounds and plan to lose 30 more. But the thing is, most people don't know that you can manage this. You said this to me. We're not dealing with terminal cancer here.

KING: Right.

REESE: You see? And people don't know that. And so they get frightened and they accept that this is what's going to -- I'm going to die from, so I might as well, and they go to the opposite extreme with it. But this is a manageable thing. This is something you can control.

MATHERS: But, Larry, it's a very back-ended disease. And the trouble with that is if you don't start treating it right when they tell you, you have it, by the time you actually get the symptoms, it's much too late. So as soon as someone tells you, you have high blood pressure, your cholesterol is high, you must start treating it then. Otherwise, you're in a whole lot of trouble when you actually have the symptoms.

KING: Nicole, will you need insulin the rest of your life?

JOHNSON: I will. I will. Because my body doesn't make the insulin that I need to survive. But just like folks with Type II diabetes, I still have to maintain what I'm eating, exercise frequently. In fact, there was a study a couple of years ago that said if people in general with diabetes would only exercise 30 minutes a day, they could prevent or delay complications by over 60 percent, which is pretty dramatic. Just by walking 30 minutes a day. So I have to employ the same techniques that Type II people have to employ as well as take insulin.

KING: Would it help immeasurably to eliminate sugar, doctor? Just no sugar?

PETERS: Well, no.

KING: Would we be better off, if no sugar were consumed? No bread, no sugar, no fruit?

PETERS: Well, first...

GUILLAUME: But everything has sugar in it.

PETERS: Exactly. So what you're talking about is -- I think, is the diet now. And there are a lot of people who have said we should just avoid everything white. So you want to avoid refined things, refined white sugar, white bread, white rice, white potatoes. But you need a balance. Everybody needs a balance.

One of my problems is people tend to get very stuck in one way. It's got to be this way. I'm not going to eat any carbs, not going to eat this or that. And what people need to do is to have a healthy diet. That means they need to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, they need to eat higher fiber, less refined carbohydrates. But if you tell somebody you're never again going to eat a French fry, they will flee from your office and never come back.


PETERS: So you have to say it's possible you can have some things. You can cheat a little. You're human.

KING: Now fruit is good, even though it's high sugar?

PETERS: Sure. But you got to know the form of it. So if you eat an apple, that's pretty good for you. But if you mash it into apple sauce, that's less good because it's absorbed into your system more quickly and then blood sugars will go higher. And then apple juice is even worse.

KING: An orange is better than orange juice?

PETERS: Exactly. So, I tell my patients never to drink fruit juice.

KING: But eat the orange?

PETERS: Exactly.

KING: I'm having trouble comprehending since it's the same orange going into you.

PETERS: But one -- OK, but a glass of orange is like five oranges. It's made simple. Everybody in America likes simple things, right? It's much easier to drink your oranges, right? It takes a long time. You have to peel it, you have to open it up, you have to chew it. That takes longer, so your whole eating time is longer. You don't eat nearly as many calories, as much sugar.

KING: So diabetes is boring?

PETERS: Oh, it's really boring.

KING: It is.

PETERS: But if you don't take care of it, you get in so much trouble.

KING: Do you think about it all the time, Robert?

GUILLAUME: Well, yes, I do. I think about it in the sense I maintain -- I mean, certain -- I'm on a sort of schedule. I'll eat frosted flakes on one day and no frosted flakes the next day. But I come back to it. And I know I cannot have chocolate. I cannot have chocolate.

KING: I'm a heart patient and they say dark chocolate is good. Low sugar -- no sugar dark chocolate is good.

PETERS: Almost anything in life is possible in moderation. The problem is if you tell someone they can have chocolate and they can have two little chocolate squares at night, they eat the whole thing. It's just about moderation and portion size when you do this.

KING: How about non-sugar products?

PETERS: Those aren't so great, because many of them have other kind of carbohydrates and fat and other things in there.

KING: Nothing is good.


PETERS: Not true.

KING: We'll take a break, reintroduce the panel and go to your phone calls. Don't go away.


DICK CLARK, LIVING WITH DIABETES: Two-thirds of people with diabetes don't realize the seriousness that it can cause their heart. They don't realize they can have a stroke, drop dead of a heart attack. So you've got to get this thing under control.

The other portion is two-thirds of the people with diabetes die from heart disease. So that two-thirds number is kind of bothersome. People -- when you compare people without diabetes or heart disease to people with diabetes it's extraordinary, the increased risk people with diabetes have even if their cholesterol is normal.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Our topic is diabetes. Our guests are Della Reese, the acclaimed singer, minister, actress, well known for her role in "Touched By An Angel." She has type II diabetes. And is a paid spokesperson for the diabetes drug Avandia. Her Web site is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline.

In Pittsburgh is Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, has type I diabetes. She is paid ambassador for the Animus Corporation, an insulin pump manufacture. She's paid ambassador for Eli Lilly's Partnership in Diabetes Program and is co-host of D Life TV, a weekly CNBC series about living with diabetes.

Jerry Mathers is the actor, best known for playing the title role in the beloved TV sitcom "Leave it to Beaver." Maybe the best ever. He has type II diabetes.

Robert Guillaume, the Emmy award winning actor has suffered type II diabetes. He also suffered a stroke in January of 1999. Appeared with us earlier this year in a program about strokes.

Morgan Fairchild, the accomplished actress is a mother -- her mother and uncle died of diabetes-related complications.

And Dr. Anne Peters, M.D., is the renowned pioneer in diabetes treatment and management. Director of the University of Southern California Clinical Diabetes program and author of a terrific new book, "Conquering Diabetes: A Cutting Edge Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment."

Let's go to calls. Fishers, Indiana. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: I love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: The doctor -- I have type II diabetes and they tell me that I have neuropathy on my legs and feet. What is that?

PETERS: Neuropathy is nerve damage to your legs and feet caused by the blood sugar levels being too high, probably over the past 10 to 15 years.

KING: Can you do anything about it once it happens?

PETERS: Once you have neuropathy, you can't reverse it. So, you can take pain medications if it hurts too much, or you can try to keep your blood sugar levels as good as possible. But you can't prevent or reverse the neuropathy entirely.

KING: So, when diabetes gets worse, it don't get better?

PETERS: When complications occur, you can't reverse them. So diabetes -- you can slow down how fast they get worse, but you can't take them back.

KING: This was in your family, Morgan. Do you worry about it?

FAIRCHILD: Well, I do. And I get checked every year. I have a physical every year and there are blood tests they can do to see if you have any tendencies going in that direction. So far I've been very lucky I haven't. But my cousin has been diagnosed with diabetes.

KING: Diabetics should have their children checked starting at what age?

PETERS: It depends on the child. So if you happen to have a child who is overweight and you're Latino and you have a 10-year-old, you may want to start checking them at 10 years old. Our youngest kids now are getting adult onset, or type II at age 2 or 4, little kids. And so it depends on the risk.

So an overweight, inactive child with a family history of diabetes -- again, you may want to test younger. But in older people, as people become teenagers and -- and it really depends on their own level of activity and their own risk.

KING: How many times a day, Nicole, do you take your blood reading?

JOHNSON: Anywhere from eight to ten times a day, depending on the kind of day I'm having. So, if I have more high blood sugars in a day I'll test more often trying to get it down. But it all depends on what's going on.

KING: So, give me an example. You get a reading of what? And then what do you do?

JOHNSON: Well, if I'm anywhere between 100 and 135, I'm content. That is great for me. If I'm above 150 or 160, I will correct my blood sugar, give just a little bit of insulin, maybe half a unit, maybe a little less. Or I'll go for a walk.

Usually if my blood sugar is over 200, I'll go outside with my dog and walk up and down the street or go to the gym. I try to take some proactive steps, or give some insulin depending on what the day is calling for.

KING: Overland Park, Kansas, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Great program.

My question is for Dr. Peters. Dr. Peters, I have been a diabetic for 40 years. And I started out on insulin injections and just five years ago went on the insulin pump. And I have been involved with doing a lot of help with the diabetic support group.

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: And my question is this. The last couple of years I of course -- I developed what they call gasteoparesis, which is nerve stomach delay with food. Nothing seems to be going on as far as research. And they only have like two meds here in the United States. And we did have a wonderful third one that got taken out.

KING: Do you know what this is doctor?


KING: Well, let's have the doctor tell us.

PETERS: Gastoparesis is, again, about nerve damage. And it's nerve damage to the stomach so that the stomach doesn't contract normally and pass food through it. So you get this terrible feeling of feeling full and you can vomit.

And it's a real problem when people with diabetes are trying to give insulin that they're trying to mesh with the food. And it can be hard to treat. So going on an insulin pump is a very good thing to try to help treat it.

There are two medications, as the speaker -- the person asking the question was talking about. But there are some really interesting new advances in this where they're doing gastric pacing and some interesting devices they're using to try to get the stomach to work better.

And I would advise her to find a university center where they specialize in diabetes where they'd be able to work with her in some of the newest treatments.

KING: Why do diabetics urinate a lot?

PETERS: They urinate a lot because the high sugar level in their blood means that there's high sugar in their urine. And when there's more sugar, more water goes into the urine that then makes them have more volume of urine and they pee more.

KING: We'll be right back with more and more of your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Santa Monica, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Santa Monica, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes. You seem to have answered my question already. But I tend to eat too much candy and my arms and fingers sometimes get numb. If I don't yet have the condition, then is it reversible?

PETERS: That's a very good question.

KING: Very good.

PETERS: And the answer is, first of all, you can look in my book, because it will tell you how to prevent diabetes. And what you should do to test for diabetes. But there are basic blood tests, very simple tests that you need to go in for. Go into the doctor, have your blood tested after not eating over night. See what your blood sugar is, your fasting blood sugar. If it's less than 100, you're probably OK. If it's more than 100, you either have pre-diabetes, or if it's higher than 126, you have diabetes.

KING: If you have pre-diabetes, what do you do?

PETERS: If you have pre-diabetes, you try to lose weight. And all you have to do is lose 7 percent of your weight if you're overweight. That's not very much. It's like 10 or 15 pounds. And then keep that off. And that can prevent diabetes, along with exercise.

And the exercise, like Nicole was talking about, is 30 minutes a day five days a week.

KING: And why does exercise work?

PETERS: Because it makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin. Remember, type II diabetes is about being resistant to the insulin your body makes. And when you exercise, you're using your muscles and the sugar goes into your muscles, your muscles become more sensitive and it uses the sugar better.

KING: Edie Kerik (ph), she says walking is good.

PETERS: Anything that moves your body and gets you out there, so you can walk, you can do an exercise cycle, you can bicycle, you can hike. You just have to do it most days of the week.

KING: Denver, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi. I'm calling, I have like a hundred questions, but I only have time for one. My mom has a metallic taste in her mouth. Did any of your guests have metallic taste in their mouth? And is insulin also a cause for weight gain?

KING: Metallic taste in the mouth?

PETERS: Let me tell you that metallic taste in the mouth can be caused by a commonly used drug called Glucophage or metformin.

KING: That's my drug.

PETERS: Do you have metallic taste?

KING: No, I don't think so.

FAIRCHILD: Be honest, Larry.


PETERS: People...

KING: What is metallic taste?

PETERS: I've never had it, but...

KING: I can't tell you. Maybe I have it and don't know it.

JOHNSON: You could. Perhaps you should stop taking it and see.

KING: Wait a minute, you have it, right, Nicole?

JOHNSON: I don't have it. I've heard about it a lot, though.

PETERS: But the serious point of this are that people with diabetes are at increased risk for certain kinds of gum and dental disease. And people who have odd tastes in their mouths need to go and make sure that they go to the dentist and have their gums and teeth checked. Having abscesses in your mouth can make your blood sugars higher and it can lead to all sorts of problems.

I also want to ask -- answer the question about insulin. When you take insulin shots, first of all, most people get afraid of taking insulin shots. And most people, once they go on insulin shots, say that they're not too bad. And, in fact, people love to control their diabetes if they have to.

And so if people need insulin, they need insulin. Insulin often causes weight gain for two reasons. One is that it makes the diabetes get better, and when you get better, you're no longer peeing out all that sugar so you gain weight.

The other thing is, if you give too much insulin, people will get low blood sugar reactions and then they can get hungry, and then they may need to eat more and they will gain weight.

There's a brand new drug that's just been FDA approved called Byetta, which comes from the saliva of the Gila monster. It's actually synthetic...

FAIRCHILD: You're making this up.

PETERS: No, I'm not.

KING: Where do we find it?

PETERS: Because some really smart researcher, some guy was, like, working on his Ph.D., and he said, I want to get a good weight loss drug going. And he thought, what creature in nature doesn't eat much? And he found out that the Gila monster only eats three to four times a year. And he thought, that's a really good creature, it doesn't eat very much. So he went to -- there's a store house where they have all these biological specimens, and he went and he found the pieces, the little secretions of the Gila monster, and found out that the spit of it is just like a hormone called GOP-1 in humans. And so you inject it. And the beauty of it is is that your diabetes gets better and you don't gain weight. In fact, you lose weight. And it's the first now of a series of drugs that are coming out for treating diabetes that help you lose weight. KING: What's the side effect?

PETERS: That you feel full, that you can get some nausea. And if you combine it with certain drugs that can lower your blood sugar, your blood sugar can go too low.

KING: In other words, you feel like you're...


KING: You think you're going to faint, right?

PETERS: When your blood sugar is too low, there's a whole bunch of symptoms. You feel weak, shaky, hungry. I'm sure that everybody has kind of had that feeling if you...


KING: ... you take a glass of orange juice, it's gone, or M&Ms. Take some M&Ms, it's gone, it goes away.

PETERS: That's wonderful, because you sense it. But some people with diabetes can't tell that their blood sugar is falling, and then before you know it's too low...

KING: How could you not sense it? You feel like you're going to fall over.

PETERS: Because they lose the warning signs. They lose those symptoms that you're talking about. So you can actually develop an inability to feel those warning signs and not know it until you're unconscious.

KING: A lot of drugs are discovered in weird ways, right?

PETERS: Exactly.

KING: Like there had to be a guy in England years ago, he says, I'm going to put some bread out on the windowsill and let it mold. Right? Penicillin.

PETERS: Exactly. And all the birds didn't get infections. No, I'm just teasing.

KING: We'll be right back. The march of medicine. Don't go away.


MARY TYLER MOORE, NATIONAL CHAIRMAN, JUVENILE DIABETES RESEARCH FOUNDATION: When you think that 35 to 40 years ago, they were thinking of diabetes as a kind of mental illness, especially when evidenced by low blood sugar, which leaves you very strange feeling and unable to function, they were just putting people into mental hospitals. We've come a long way.



KING: We're back. Palmdale, California, hello. Palmdale, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Go ahead.


KING: Hi. Sounds like you're having an attack. Go ahead.

CALLER: I have a situation where I have a wasting disease.

KING: A what disease?

PETERS: A wasting disease.

CALLER: A wasting disease. I went from roughly 220 pounds down to 140. And...

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: I just wonder how that worked into this...

KING: Does that relate to diabetes?

PETERS: Well, first of all, if you have an undiagnosed disease, you should see a physician and find out what's wrong.

KING: What is wasting disease?

PETERS: It means that he's lost a ton of weight. And he sounds quite ill. So make sure that you're seeing your doctor regularly, because diabetes can present as a wasting disease, because you can lose a lot of weight when you're first undiagnosed and have these symptoms or the high blood sugars. There are diseases like AIDS, HIV/AIDS, which cause -- or the medications which you take for that can lead to problems with glucose as well. And so treating diabetes or a metabolic disease can be part and parcel of other diseases that may cause wasting. But it's very important to get the diagnosis.

KING: Are carbohydrates an enemy of the diabetic?



PETERS: Everything in moderation. You just have to learn to eat the carbohydrates that are right and eat them in the right quantity.

KING: Tampa, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for your panel is, with a poorly planned school lunch program, lack of physical education due to increase in testing, what can we do as a generation to prevent diabetes and obesity in the young children, and actually replace some of these with healthy, positive choices for our...

KING: Yeah, Della talked about that.

REESE: That's what I'm working on. I'm trying to get the information to the mothers and fathers about the eating habits of our children. I spent yesterday with the surgeon general and several congresswomen and a couple of senators, and they've said that they're going to help by getting information out en masse.

KING: Nicole, do you know anything about the school lunch programs? Are they deficient?

JOHNSON: They are. They're terrible. They're very carbohydrate heavy. And students are given too much flexibility and freedom to choose whatever they want at school rather than parents being proactive to decide they're going to have a vegetable, a fruit, a protein, a carbohydrate and create that balance.

So what people really need to do is rise up and speak out, that we have a voice for a reason. And we can petition our lawmakers to change the system. And if not, we can pack lunches or send things with our kids to school that are healthier and wiser choices for them.

KING: Are there such things, doctor, that should not be served in a school lunch?

PETERS: Well, yes. But this is a very big problem. And I'm working on a diabetes prevention initiative funded by the KECK Foundation. And we're looking at two communities, one in East Los Angeles and one in South Central in the Watts area and working with the communities. Because this is much more than just a disease that a doctor is going to go out and say, here, eat a healthy food.

Because one of the problems is you say eat fresh fruits and vegetables. But in these places they don't have fresh fruits and vegetables. So it has a lot to do with the access to food, the access to safe areas to exercise. And as such, I think that all of us, everybody who is concerned about this, which should be everybody, needs to work together both with the schools, with the politicians, with the educators, with families. I mean, this is something we all need to embrace.

REESE: Everything you said just now is correct. But the thing is every individual has to be responsible for yourself. You can't be with me 24 hours, no matter how much good you want to do for me. I have to commit myself. I have to say I'll take care of it.

KING: Overweight children?

FAIRCHILD: Something I'm very concerned about. We've become a much more inactive nation just in my lifetime. When I was a little kid, kids went out and played. Now they seem to sit home and watch TV or play video games. We just had a big video game expo down here in L.A. And people are excited.

And it's nice, again, in moderation. I think that's what America as a society is losing track of is we're eating too much, we're exercising too little. We're not getting off our rears and just walking places. We're always jumping in a car. We're playing video games instead of reading.

I mean, there are new studies showing graduates can't write, that companies are having trouble because graduates can't write. They may be great with computer games, but they can't write in a proper e-mail to explain their ideas, however creative.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. San Diego, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Yes. My question is about these sugar alcohols that you see in a lot of these sugar free candies. How are they able to get away with that, because it seems very misleading. And if you could explain how that works as far as calculating that into your diet, because what I've found is that candies either have high sugar or high fat, one or the other.

KING: Doctor?

PETERS: Well, you need to look at your own specific diet and what you need to eat. Sugar alcohols don't actually raise your blood sugar levels. So when you drink alcohol, say a glass of dry wine, it will probably lower your blood sugar levels, because the alcohol inhibits the production of glucose from the liver. So sugar alcohols won't raise your blood sugars per se. But they actually can cause diarrhea if you eat too many of it.

So what you want to do...



PETER: ...moderation. You figure out what your -- you work with your nutritionist, you figure out what your diet should be and then how you should eat.

KING: So alcoholics who tend to be thinner have less diabetes?

PETERS: Well, it's complicated, because...

KING: Because we don't want to promote alcoholism.

PETERS: No. But in every single study, a glass or two of wine a day may be helpful in people who actually have diabetes, lowering their risk of heart attack or stroke. There's a study that if you drink beer it decreases your chance of getting diabetes which seems counterintuitive. But, the point is it's not the evil thing. In excess it is, but in moderation it's probably OK.

GUILLAUME: Was diabetes always a problem in society, in any given society?

KING: All over the world?

PETERS: Well, it is now. But if you look at different populations and their migrations if you see -- there's a Pima Indian tribe who migrated in part of -- and settled in Arizona. And they have the highest rate diabetes anywhere, but there's a part that kept going south and is now in Mexico and has a very, very hard life and they live and they work outside and it's a much more agricultural, rural life and they don't have any diabetes. Same genes, different environment and they don't get diabetes.

GUILLAUME: I don't understand how, if we had a better diet like in the south, black people, how is it that now we are at highest risk for diabetes?

REESE: When we had that nice diet that we hated so much, they gave us the things we needed to eat. We got the iron from greens and we ate carrots. And what -- we were in a position where whatever mom and daddy brought home, you ate that.

KING: And you didn't want to eat at the lunch counter.

REESE: You ate that. You see, my lunch was in a bag every day that she sent with me every day. You see.

But then we got some money, see. And when we got the money, see, I'm never going to let my baby suffer like I had to suffer, so I'm going to give her everything you see. And everything was not really a good thing.

KING: Jerry, you look well. How are you doing?

MATHERS: I'm doing real, real well. But, know you, I know that have to do well. And that's the really important thing with diabetes. If you find out you have it, start to attack it immediately. It's back-ended. You've got to get on it. As soon as you get on it, you're going to feel a lot better and you're going to live a lot longer.

FAIRCHILD: That was my mother's problem. She wouldn't stick to her diet. And she suffered those consequences.

KING: Is it a good idea for anyone over 40 to have your blood checked?

PETERS: Absolutely.

KING: Just automatically, right?

PETERS: Yes, fasting. Go in, have it checked. And ask for your numbers. Don't be passive. Never be a passive healthcare consumer. And in my book I describe a number of things that I think people should do. People need to ask questions, people need to seek information. If you don't like your doctor, get a second opinion.

GUILLAUME: But apparently more people than could possibly know it are at risk for diabetes.

PETERS: About 45 million. It's a huge number!

REESE: And in ten years, they will be our diabetic patients.

FAIRCHILD: Doctors are looking at 40 percent increase in the next two decades.

KING: Thank you, Nicole, and thank you, doctor. The doctor's book is "Conquering Diabetes: A Cutting Edge Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment." Dr. Anne Peters and Della Reese, Nicole Johnson, Jerry Mathers, Robert Guillaume and Morgan Fairchild.

Tomorrow night, Bob Dole will be one of our guests and so, too, will the famed gossip columnist Liz Smith.

Speaking of fame, we turn now to New York and "NEWSNIGHT." And who better to host "NEWSNIGHT" than its regular host, why not, Aaron Brown.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, it's got my name on the program.

KING: I saw that. It's in the paper today, too. Aaron Brown, "NEWSNIGHT."

BROWN: Yeah. Thank you, Larry.



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