The man who discovered insulin – and gave it to the world for free
In 1923, Frederick Banting and his team won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of insulin. Before then, the only way for people with type 1 diabetes to control their blood glucose was on a “starvation diet,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
In 2004, Banting was voted the fourth greatest ever Canadian. In 1989, the Queen Mother lit a flame of hope as a tribute to Frederick Banting and the people who have died as a result of diabetes. When a cure for type 1 diabetes has been discovered, the researchers who find it will have the honor of extinguishing the flame.
It wasn’t just the discovery of insulin that has made Banting so revered – it’s his character. When the Nobel Prize was awarded only to him and his associated John MacLeod, he was furious that the contributions of the other members of his team had not been recognised. Both Banting and MacLeod shared their prize money with others who had worked on the discovery.
Discovering insulin could have made Banting very rich, but he decided to give the patent away for free. He wanted insulin to be available to everyone, not held out of reach at exorbitant prices.
In Banting’s honor, World Diabetes Day is held every year on November 14 – Banting’s birthday. On that day, there are campaigns to raise awareness of diabetes all over the world. Whether online or offline, there are plenty of ways you can get involved.
Blue is the color of World Diabetes Day, and healthy eating is the theme. People with diabetes – people everywhere, for that matter – are encouraged to include plenty of leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains and nuts. There’s also an emphasis on teaching children to follow a healthy diet from a young age.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has compiled some “key messages” for those looking to spread awareness. Most of them focus on the shocking spread of type 2 diabetes throughout of the world. By 2035, 600 million people could have type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes rates are also increasing, although nobody knows why. By spreading the right messages and raising awareness about the risks of diabetes, we can stop the epidemic.
Some of the attempts to spread awareness have been astonishing. Last year, we were treated to the spectacular sight of landmarks throughout the world being illuminated in blue. Over 1,000 monuments and buildings were lit up, including Sears Tower.
Have a look at the World Diabetes Day website to see how you can get involved.
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