Why is diabetes up? Environment and more obesity, says doctor

An insulin vial and syringe sit on a table. Photo by Shutterstock.

Eli Lilly and Company announced on Wednesday that it would cut the price of insulin and expand a program that caps out-of-pocket costs for insulin. It’s a victory for President Biden, who highlighted the soaring cost of the hormone in his State of the Union speech last month: “Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars – $400-500 a month, making record profits. Not anymore!”

The demand for insulin continues to grow, and diabetes is one of the fastest-growing chronic illnesses in the world.

“The reason [diabetes is] increasing is in part because of the increase in obesity across both the United States and other parts of the world. But there's evidence to suggest there are environmental factors, such as … pesticides, which have been shown to increase the risk of a number of conditions, including type II diabetes. And then for type I diabetes, we're also seeing an increase. … There's an increase in prevalence of pretty much all the autoimmune diseases,” says Peter Butler, endocrinology doctor and professor of medicine at UCLA. 

He adds, “Oftentimes, people who develop type II diabetes end up with the impression that it's their fault. … You know, society is changing, it's not really the individual. Long commute times are not something that many people have a choice over. … I think it has to be fixed more in a public health manner. So I think rather than targeting individuals, trying to reorient society is perhaps the better way to go.”



  • Peter Butler - endocrinology doctor and professor of medicine at UCLA