Happy Diabetes Awareness Month! Here’s Some Musicians with Problematic Pancreas

Ah, diabetes. Often the butt of many fat jokes, it’s a disease that’s poorly understood yet widespread. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and November 14 is World Diabetes Day.

There are three kinds of diabetes: Type 1 (sometimes called juvenile diabetes), which is an auto-immune disease where the beta cells from the pancreas are attacked. They aren’t able to make any insulin, leading to a lifetime of insulin injections and other fun things. Type 2 generally happens because of lifestyle choices or hereditary factors, and can sometimes be averted or fixed. Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy.

And yes, people with diabetes can eat sugar. No, it did not cause their immune systems to break down. And did you know that diabetes causes more deaths yearly than breast cancer and AIDS combined? If you’re interested in doing something about that statistic, check out some organizations like JDRF.

Many celebrities live with diabetes. Here are some of our favorite musicians with the disease.


Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine: Wilk was diagnosed in 1997 while touring with the band.  As the drummer, he says he has a very specific routine before he goes on stage: he eats a banana and continuously checks his blood sugar, as well as having a support team behind him. His advice to other diabetics? “Diabetes is no walk in the park, I know. But with the proper care and knowledge, it can be a manageable disease. The more accepting you are about the fact that you have this disease, the better you will begin to take care of yourself. And it’s nothing to be embarrassed [about] or ashamed of. Be proud of who you are, and don’t let this disease keep you from doing what you want to do.”

Bret Michaels of Poison: Everybody can recognize “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” but did you realize the lead singer was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 6 years old? Michaels said, “I use diabetes just as one more challenge in my life. You have to accept it because there is no other choice. You either do well with it or it will take over your life, and then it’s not going to be so great.” He acknowledges that it’s tough to tour with it on the road, but he makes adjustments for it. 

Nick Jonas of The Jonas Brothers: Whether you’re a classic Jo Bros fan or just a fan of Nick’s recent crotch-grabbing pics, you might not know that the singer has Type 1 Diabetes. He’s an avid spokesperson and often talks about using an insulin pump called the OmniPod. “For someone who had no bad medical history ever,” he says, “to suddenly have the shock of diabetes was a bit overwhelming in itself, and then I had to learn all about it, learn all these things in such a short period of time. I also wondered if I could continue making music…but I had the support of my friends and the band to be there with me.” When asked about his favorite food, he says it’s pizza!

Este Haim of HAIM: The Haim sisters, darlings of the indie world and a particular favorite of a certain blog director, band together to support Este, who was diagnosed when she was 14. She says that university life was hard on controlling her A1C (a blood sugar average). After almost passing out at Glastonbury 2013, she said: “There is a lot of different factors that go along to treating diabetes, it’s exercise, it’s diet and insulin.  Sometimes I can’t exercise because I’ve spent the last 12 hours on flights or I’m exhausted or I don’t want to exercise.” Este’s key to managing her A1C is eating a vegan diet.

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead: Ranked 13th in the Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, the musician Jerry Garcia also had Type 2 Diabetes. He had a near-death experience in 1986 when he went into a diabetic coma (often caused by continuous high blood sugars).