September 13, 2012

What happens if Diabetes hits home in Amish Country?


My curiosity was piqued when TLC aired their show “Breaking Amish” last Sunday. We have different pathologies that cause diabetes. You may think that Type 2 diabetes is probably less of a concern in a whole food, active community like the Amish.  This is true. But what about insulin-dependent diabetes? What about refrigerators?

A study was published in Diabetes Care in 2000 about the susceptibility of Type 2 diabetes among the Old Order Amish (OOA). The Old Order Amish (OOA) are a genetically well-defined closed Caucasian founder population.

The study found that Type 2 diabetes in the Amish population has similar physical characteristics to a non-Amish population, although the prevalence in the Amish community is lower than that of the non-Amish population. The existence of Type  2 diabetes among Amish is clustered in families.

Type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune cause of diabetes, is the type that requires insulin (the kind that has to be refrigerated for preservation), blood glucose meters (an electronic device), and possibly a pump. What is a T1D to do? I was not the only person thinking this, as mentioned in a blog post about a year ago.

Clearly PubMed listings and blogs couldn’t answer the question so I took it straight to the horse’s mouth: 1-800-PA-DUTCH. Cindy graciously gave me a brief summary on the lifestyle of Amish and Mennonite community insofar as their medical needs. In the case of a person with Type 1 diabetes, they do have the storage allotment for refrigerated insulin. They do visit doctors for the medical intervention necessary.

Another thing Cindy told me was that the TLC portrayal of the Amish and Mennonite community in “Breaking Amish” was off-base. She said the show is incorrect in their depiction of the people they choose to feature. The Amish lifestyle is a little more horse and buggy whereas the Mennonite lifestyle is indiscernible from everybody else. They drive cars. They use electricity.

After all – it is a dash of heritage with a pinch of flair!

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