Hawaii Population Vulnerable to Diabetes

Dr. Kalani Brady
Dr. Kalani Brady
Darin Yokoyama
Darin Yokoyama

KAKAAKO (KHNL) -- A warning from doctors: they say much of the state's population is vulnerable to diabetes, more so than people realize. The warning comes in light of National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Doctors at University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine say symptoms don't show early on, which means you could have diabetes but may not know it.

Exercise and a good diet - it's simple advice, but according to Dr. Kalani Brady, it's the most effective way to prevent and or fight diabetes.

"Diabetes is one of those diseases that, unless you're checked, you may not know that you have. Early on in the course of diabetes there are no symptoms in most diabetics," said Dr. Brady, a professor at the UH School of Medicine.

Dr. Brady says, compared to Caucasians, Native Hawaiians, Filipinos and Japanese are twice as likely to have diabetes, and Native Hawaiians are nearly six times more likely to die from the disease.

"One might say, 'Oh, it's because a certain group of people is heavier' but it's not that. It has to do with other factors."

Darin Yokoyama, co-owner of "Sweet Nothings" Bakery would know. He opened a one-stop sugar-free shop after battling diabetes since he was ten-years-old.

"It's rough because at that age everyone's out eating candy, Halloween trick-or-treating and going to parties and having birthday cakes, and as a youngster I wasn't able to enjoy those," said Yokoyama.  "But now we feel like the kids can enjoy those kinds of things with products that we offer."

His mission is apparent on one of the walls at his bakery.

"These shoes are donations from our customers and we're collecting $1 or more per shoe on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation," Yokoyama said.

It's research that's much-needed, not only in Hawaii but across the nation.

The sugar-free pastries at Sweet Nothings Bakery are also low-fat, low-cholesterol, and have half the calories and carbohydrates than regular pastries, so they're specifically catered for diabetics to help make it easier for them to live with the disease.