Berry's Miracle Cure Probably Misdiagnosis, Say Docs

Halle Berry caused a stir after saying she'd weaned herself off insulin.


Nov. 6, 2007— -- Despite her claims to the contrary, Halle Berry did not cure herself of Type 1 diabetes, doctors told ABC, for one simple reason -- Type 1 diabetes is incurable.

"I've managed to wean myself off insulin, so now I'd like to put myself in the Type 2 category," the Web site quotes the Academy Award winning actress as saying last week.

Diabetics quickly took to the blogosphere to condemn Berry for claiming that a change in diet could cure Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas permanently fails to produce insulin, the vital hormone that regulates sugar levels in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile-onset diabetes, usually strikes children who must remain on insulin therapy for their entire lives, routinely monitoring their blood-sugar levels and taking injections.

Those doctors interviewed agreed that if Berry was truly a Type 1 diabetic, it would be suicide to simply stop taking insulin. They surmised that the 41-year-old actress was either mistaken, misinformed or misdiagnosed, and probably always had Type 2, which tends to affect people later in life and can in some cases be overcome with a change in diet.

"When someone really has Type 1, it means their immune system has destroyed the insulin producing part of pancreas. In that case, there is no way to wean yourself off insulin [treatments]," said Dr. Francine Kaufman, a diabetes expert at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Some 20.8 million people -- 7 percent of the population -- have diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. African-Americans, however, are particularly at risk. According to institute statistics, 3.2 million black Americans, or 13.3 percent of all non-Hispanic blacks, have the disease.

Berry's mother is white and her father is black.

Type 2 tends to affect the unfit and obese; 90 percent of all Type 2 patients are overweight. Berry, however, was a healthy 22-year-old working on the TV show "Living Dolls" in 1989 when she was first diagnosed, she told the Daily Mail in 2005.

Before she was diagnosed and after becoming ill on the set, she told the paper, she slipped into a diabetic coma for a week.

"She was diagnosed in her early 20s, and at that age it's sometimes difficult to know at the beginning if it's Type 1 or 2," said Dr. Ronald Kahn, director of the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard.

"Because she is thin and healthy, her physician initially probably thought that she had Type 1, though in African-Americans there is an increased risk for Type 2. The diagnosis wasn't necessarily a bait and switch, but it might have just been a matter of her physician's getting a better handle on the kind of diabetes she had," he said.

"Physicians are always asked to make the call one way or other. He probably said Type 1 at the time, but was not 100 percent certain. Some people with borderline diagnoses will joke that they have Type 1½," he said.

Berry's physician might not have been the only one confused about the status of the actor's condition. In a December 2005 Daily Mail article about Berry and her diabetes, the paper said she had Type 2. In a 2006 New York Times article, the Times said she had Type 1.

Berry is four months pregnant. Though not referring to Berry's condition specifically, Kaufman said women with Type 1 need to be particularly careful about their insulin levels when pregnant.

"There is a heightened risk for many women while pregnant. The goal of pregnancy is to carefully manage insulin," . Kaufman said.

The American Diabetes Association was also reluctant to comment directly on Berry's condition but warned that people taking insulin should not stop treatment without first consulting their doctors.

"We don't want people with Type 1 to hear about this and stop taking their insulin," said Diane Tuncer, the association's director of communications.

"After hearing one story about a celebrity, people shouldn't begin questioning their treatment. No one should stop treatment without consulting their physician," she said.

Berry's publicist, Meredith O'Sullivan, refused to comment on Berry's reported remarks, saying only that "any medical choice that is made regarding her treatment is between Berry and her doctors."

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