When it comes to social and economic impact of the diabetes epidemic, there isn’t much to feel good about — as of 2012, 29.1 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and it accounts for $245 billion in direct medical costs and lost productivity per year.

On an individual level, diabetes can be painful, debilitating, and increasingly exhausting to manage due to an onslaught of treatment options. Not only can it eventually lead to kidney, nerve, and liver damage, but the American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Tragically, but not surprisingly, people with type 2 diabetes tend to die sooner; the expected life span of a 50-year-old with the illness is about 8.5 years shorter than someone without it.

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