The word “diabetes” is Greek for “siphon,” which refers to the copious urine of uncontrolled diabetes. “Mellitus” is Latin for “honey” or “sweet,” a name added when physicians discovered that the urine from people with diabetes is sweet with glucose.
The earliest recorded mention of a disease that can be recognized as diabetes is found in the Ebers papyrus (1500 B.C.), which includes directions for several mixtures that could “remove the urine, which runs too often.
Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, physicians would often put their patients on starvation or semi-starvation diets, recommending they eat only foods such as oatmeal.
Diabetes has been reported in horses, ferrets, and ground squirrels. In environments where animals are liberally fed, diabetes has been reported in dolphins, foxes, and even a hippopotamus.
Diabetes insipidus (water diabetes) is a condition completely different from diabetes mellitus. Diabetes insipidus is characterized by a problem with the kidneys in which the kidneys are unable to concentrate urine adequately due to a deficiency in the antidiuretic hormone (ADH).
Insulin in the 1920s was initially extracted from the pancreas of a cow (bovine) or pig (porcine). Today’s insulins are created in the lab, cultured from bacteria and yeast through recombinant DNA.