Rob Kardashian’s type 2 diabetes diagnosis is an opportunity to increase diabetes awareness that is not being taken

You might have heard by now that Rob Kardashian has type 2 diabetes. As far as diabetes awareness goes, this is a mightily convoluted situation to unravel. Obviously, it is tremendously unfortunate that this man now has type 2 diabetes, but the media coverage of his diagnosis has now crossed the line from curious to quite ridiculous.

Rob Kardashian is the brother of Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, if you didn’t know. They are all quite famous, but nobody really knows why. They appear in a TV show together called “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” along with parents Kris and Caitlyn Jenner (previously Bruce Jenner), and half-sisters Kendall and Kylie.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get back to the issue at hand. Rob, 28, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes towards the end of 2015 after being rushed to hospital; a young age to be diagnosed. There are many celebrities with type 2 diabetes: Sir Steve Redgrave, Chaka Khan and Christopher Biggins, amongst others, but the media has zeroed in on Rob and highlighted diabetes in a way like never before.

The quality of reporting has been mixed, to say the least. Several news sources have highlighted Rob’s withdrawal from the public eye following his diagnosis, presenting him as some sort of pariah. Consider, for example, the response of EOnline when Rob posted a picture of his face on Instagram: “Nearly a month after he was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with diabetes, a reclusive Rob Kardashian is reconnecting with his fans on Instagram through his own eyes.”

Then there was the work of TMZ, which published this. “Our sources say [Rob’s] still eating crap and not seriously doing anything to lose weight.” This story was picked up by the Mirror and the Daily Mail, among other UK-based websites. Furthermore, The Mirror published an article that almost exclusively relies on quotes from Kardashian sources stating their feelings on Rob’s diagnosis, refusing to acknowledge any information on type 2 diabetes that wasn’t Kardashian-related.

The whole make-up of this reporting puts type 2 diabetes in a bad light. An easy assumption can be made that having type 2 diabetes makes you want to hide away, and by focusing on Rob’s retreat the media sends out an awful message, especially to people who are newly diagnosed with type 2 and may be influenced by this kind of reporting. It is also disappointing that the classic misconception of “still eating crap” is highlighted as being behind all cases of type 2 diabetes.

Managing type 2 diabetes takes tremendous work each day, and keeping blood glucose levels under control is essential to avoid long-term complications such as neuropathy, nephropathy and heart disease. Getting regular exercise and adhering to medication regimens is also imperative, but staying positive can help motivate you to achieve these lifestyle changes. When the media infers that type 2 diabetes is a condition that turns celebrities into exiles, it instead promotes an outlook of despair, which is unacceptable.

Not all of the reporting has been bad, however. The New York Post, for example, at least chose to examine type 2 diabetes rates and misconceptions in Elisabeth Vincentelli’s article: “Why Rob Kardashian is a health warning to his generation.”

This is what diabetes awareness should be about: providing education and explaining the risk factors for type 2 diabetes; what you can do to lessen your risk of developing it; and what it means to live with it on a daily basis.

Focusing on why Rob may be having problems accepting his type 2 diabetes diagnosis, which can be common, could help a generation of young people with diabetes understand their emotions, and why they themselves might be struggling.

It almost certainly won’t happen everywhere. Rob’s diabetes serves mainly to promote more stories about the Kardashians for several news sites. But, even if just one or two publications provided greater awareness of type 2 diabetes with each Rob article, its benefits could be felt worldwide.

Picture: abcnews.go.com

***UPDATE, Feb 2016: Rob has reportedly lost 40 pounds by following a carb-restricted diet which involves cutting out fast food and red meat, and adopting a rigorous exercise regime.

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About the author

Jack Woodfield

Jack is Editorial Manager of Diabetes.co.uk. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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