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CDN talks diabetes

Bailey McClellan, News Writer

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Members of the College Diabetes Network spoke last Thursday about the challenges of carb counting for Type 1 diabetics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, a disease which affects the body’s ability to either produce or respond to insulin, causing too much glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream.

According to the CDC, Type 1 diabetes, often referred to as juvenile diabetes, is caused when the pancreas loses the ability to produce insulin, while Type 2 diabetes is caused when the body’s cells build a resistance to insulin.

Sydney Quinn, the club’s president and a Type 1 diabetic, explained that diabetics count the carbohydrates they consume to track their blood sugar levels.

“Carbs come in simple forms, such as sugar, and complex forms, such as starches and fiber,” Quinn said. “The body breaks down most sugars and starches and turns it into glucose. So carbs are important to diabetics because they produce glucose, which increase blood sugar levels. Sometimes that’s bad when you have too high of a blood sugar, but sometimes when you’re real low, you need carbs to pump the blood sugar back up.”

Quinn said for Type 1 diabetics, the amount of insulin that must be taken is determined by the amount of carbohydrates consumed and the amount of insulin their pancreas is capable of producing.

“For everything that we eat, we have to count how many carbs, which is where the insulin-to-carb ratio comes in,” Quinn said. “So, each diabetic obviously has their own tailored [ratio] because not every diabetic’s pancreas is the same.”

Quinn and CDN Vice President Elena Lerwick, who is also a Type 1 diabetic, said counting carbs involves a lot of guesswork.

“There’s no way to be 100 percent certain how many carbs you’re ingesting really unless it’s like prepackaged foods, that kind of stuff,” Quinn said. “So, really we just have to guess.”

“Honestly, if there’s any takeaway from this, it’s guess andcheck,” Lerwick said. “It’s just guess and check. And the dieticians will be like ‘Okay, so how many carbs down to the .5 is a regular apple?’ and you’ll be like ‘I don’t know! What’s a regular apple?’”

Quinn said a common misconception is that Type 1 diabetics have dietary restrictions.

“When I was first diagnosed, my parents were like ‘You can’t have ice cream. You can’t have pizza,’” Quinn said. “But I talked to my endocrinologist, which is a diabetes doctor, and she was like as long as you take the correct amount of insulin you can eat whatever you want pretty much.”

Lerwick said it’s the organization’s goal to eliminate such misconceptions and to provide resources to diabetic students.

“CDN aims to connect college-aged diabetic students with each other and with resources to help them navigate college and manage this disease,” Lerwick said. “I’m not sure if this applies to the national organization, but our particular chapter wants to focus on outreach and awareness as well to dispel stereotypes about what diabetes is and educate people on what to do in an emergency.”

Quinn said being involved in the group has provided her with a support system and helped her connect with other diabetics at the University.

“The few friends that I do have that have [diabetes] are away,” Quinn said. “So, yeah, I can text them and what not, but it’s a lot better having people you can talk to face-to-face about the issues and stuff and you can kind of make jokes about it with each other.”

Students interested in becoming involved in CDN should email Quinn at

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
CDN talks diabetes