Tom Hanks has Type 2 Diabetes

Tom Hanks 2009

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I love Tom Hanks. From Forrest Gump to Angels & Demons, I have always enjoyed watching him perform. He is professional, willing to gain or lose 20kg just to fit into the look of a role.

He has just declared that he has developed type 2 diabetes mellitus at age 57. Also, he has been having “high sugars” (likely prediabetes) from age 36.

Type 2 Diabetes mellitus is a disease of high blood sugar, when the body cannot make enough insulin to bring the sugar down in the blood. It happens especially in people who are overweight and obese, because when they gain fat tissue, their body becomes resistant to the effect of insulin. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to overcome this resistance and their blood sugar is still normal. Over time, however, the pancreas becomes weak and blood sugar starts to rise a bit (prediabetes) and then a lot (frank diabetes).

8.3% of Americans have diabetes, and 11.3% of Singaporeans have diabetes. The high blood sugar wreaks havoc in the body, getting attached to everything in the body, preventing their normal function. If uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, amputations of the lower limbs, heart attacks and strokes. Fortunately, good control of diabetes can prevent all these complications.

The most important thing is through lifestyle modifications. The most important thing is to control the amount of carbohydrate intake and exercise regularly. Tom Hanks has said that he would not be taking on roles that require weight gain any more. Well he is someone that can lose 26 pounds (12kg) just through sheer determination, so I think he can do it.

Indeed, Tom Hanks has had quite a good run with his prediabetes. He only “graduated” from prediabetes to diabetes after 21 years! In Singapore, a study done by Prof ES Tai showed that 35% of patients with prediabetes develop diabetes in 8 years. So Mr Hanks have largely avoided developing diabetes at a much earlier age, and should be congratulated.

It is also very encouraging to know that celebrities like Tom Hanks would openly admit their chronic medical condition. It can lead to better recognition of the illness by the public, and lead to healthy discussion by patients at risk and their doctors. Well done Mr Hanks!

2 thoughts on “Tom Hanks has Type 2 Diabetes

  1. Vinny Grette

    It doesn’t look like Tom has a weight problem to me, but I’ve read that skinny people can get diabetes, too. In this case, it IS from eating the wrong things in an unbalanced way, even though they aren’t eating enough calories overall to gain weight. My dad was skinny and ended up with diabetes. He would never eat his veggies! C’est la vie…

    Reply
    1. drdanielwai Post author

      Dear Vinny,

      Yes indeed studies have shown that soft drinks, fruit juices and refined starches (white rice, white bread etc) increase the risk of diabetes. Fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits decrease the risk.

      Some thin people get it probably because their pancreas is just a bit weaker than others. In fact, the fatter the person when they get diabetes, the stronger their pancreas must have been. If the thin person’s pancreas can’t even deal with the mild insulin resistance of their thin body, their pancreas must be rather weak.
      Fortunately, thin people generally do not overeat so they may find it easier to change their diet to combat their diabetes.

      Reply

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