I have pre-diabetes, which means I’ve needed to alter my diet, lose some weight, and get more exercise. With 400 million diabetics in the world today, I’m always interested in learning more about this widespread condition.

In this TED Ed video lesson for students age 8 and above, you’ll learn a surprising amount about diabetes in under 4 minutes (a full-page lesson is also available). Among the facts that surprised me is that diabetes was first identified about 1500 B.C. in Egypt. Yet it wasn’t until the early 20th century that people learned what caused diabetes.

More surprising still was the role of dogs in the ground-breaking research. In 1920, researchers in Canada discovered – by experimenting on dogs – that diabetes had to do with the pancreas organ which makes the hormone insulin, and whether enough insulin is being produced or is being used to properly regulate blood sugar levels.

The researchers treated diabetic dogs with an extract from pancreas tissue – which was the first use of insulin. In 1922, human trials began and were a great success. These scientists won a Nobel Prize the very next year.

It turns out that dogs get diabetes at about the same rate as young humans do (2 per 1,000). Dogs with diabetes receive the same insulin treatments as people. But interestingly, if the insulin (made from pigs) isn’t effective, they often get insulin extracted from humans. Hey, they deserve it, big time!

In the “Dig Deeper” section, you’ll find a link to the International Diabetes Federation, where an interactive map of the world shows a lot of information. One of the map’s “filters,” for example, estimates that 6.7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes.

The earlier diabetes is caught, the easier it is to treat and prevent harmful effects. So it’s worth learning more about symptoms and, if you suspect something, get tested by a doctor.

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About The Author

Michael Solow

Michael Solow is Consulting Editor of Learning Liftoff. He has worked as a teacher, journalist, and commercial writer/creative director. Michael has also taught high school English and junior high math, gaining his teaching certification from Vassar College and a Master's degree in the Teaching of Writing and Literature from George Mason University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the San Francisco Review of Books, TheMorningNews.org, and the Hemingway Review. He is the proud dad of two grown daughters and the happy husband of an elementary school librarian.