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50 Famous & Successful People Who Are Diabetic

January 19th, 2011

Diabetes is a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease that affects millions of people, famous and successful included. But suffering from this disease doesn't mean your life has to stop where it is-many people have gone on to live full, productive lives, achieving greatness from Nobel Prizes to Halls of Fame. Read on to learn about 50 famous and successful people who achieved despite this unfortunate affliction.

Science & Medicine

Inventors, doctors, and other people of science achieved greatness in the face of diabetes.

  1. George R. Minot: This Nobel Prize Winner for anemia was one of the first patients treated with insulin.
  2. Lois Jovanovic: Lois is a pioneer in the work of diabetes and pregnancy.
  3. Cynthia Ice: Cynthia Ice — who lost her eyesight to diabetic retinopathy — became IBM's Lotus Accessibility Lead.
  4. Thomas Edison: The prolific American inventor and businessman managed to create an amazing amount of patents while suffering from diabetes.
  5. Albert Ellis: Albert Ellis was a cognitive behavioral therapist who was diagnosed with diabetes at 40. Despite this and other health problems, he lived to be 93.

Business & Politics

Presidents and CEOs alike have suffered from diabetes.

  1. Yuri Andropov: Among other medical conditions, Soviet politician Yuri Andropov suffered from diabetes.
  2. Ray Kroc: Ray Kroc overcame diabetes and arthritis to create McDonald's.
  3. Janet Jagan: Guyanese President Janet Jagan has been treated for diabetes.
  4. James Farmer: Civil rights legend James Farmer lost his sight and legs to severe diabetes.
  5. Fran Carpentier: A diabetic, Fran Carpentier is also Parade Magazine's Senior Editor.
  6. Mikhail Gorbachev: Mikhail Gorbachev, former USSR leader, manages his type 2 diabetes with medication.
  7. Tom Foster: Tom Foster, former head of Foster Poultry Farms, died from complications of diabetes at 49.
  8. Fiorello LaGuardia: Former New York mayor and namesake of LaGuardia airport, Fiorello LaGuardia was a diabetic.


Despite the health challenge presented by diabetes, these athletes won titles and set records.

  1. Scott Coleman: Scott Coleman is known as the first diabetic to swim the English Channel.
  2. Ty Cobb: Legendary baseball player Ty Cobb suffered from diabetes as well as cancer.
  3. Smokin' Joe Frazier: Former Olympic and World Heavyweight boxing champion suffered from diabetes.
  4. Ayden Byle: A runner for diabetes research, he was the first insulin-dependent diabetic to run 6,521.5 kilometers across North America.
  5. Billie Jean King: One of the greatest women tennis players of all time is a diabetes sufferer.
  6. Ron Santo: This Chicago Cubs icon was not expected to live past 25 due to his diabetes condition.
  7. Sugar Ray Robinson: The World Welterweight Champion was diagnosed with diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
  8. Jackie Robinson: A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Jackie Robinson unfortunately kept his diabetes diagnosis hidden.


Although suffering from diabetes, these people offer TV, movies, music, and more for our entertainment.

  1. Dick Clark: Entertainer, creator of American Music Awards Dick Clark suffers from diabetes.
  2. Damon Dash: The co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records has type 1 diabetes.
  3. Della Reese: Singer and actress Della Reese is an American Diabetes Association spokeswoman.
  4. Walt Kelly: Part of the animation team at Disney, Walt Kelly died due to complications of diabetes.
  5. Ella Fitzgerald: The "First Lady of Song," Ella lost both her legs and ultimately her life to diabetes.
  6. Mary Tyler Moore: The TV sitcom actress is the international chairwoman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
  7. Bret Michaels: The lead singer of Poison has found a way to balance diabetes and his lifestyle.
  8. Randy Jackson: Randy Jackson is an American Idol judge and a part of the American Heart Association's The Heart of Diabetes campaign.
  9. James Cagney: The Academy Award winning tough guy actor died of a heart attack combined with complications from diabetes.
  10. Miles Davis: This jazz musician received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award despite diabetes.
  11. Bo Diddley: Despite fighting diabetes, hypertension, and stroke, Bo Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
  12. Nick Jonas: Nick Jonas of the Jonas brothers is determined to not let diabetes slow him down.
  13. Halle Berry: Halle Berry is the first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress and an avid volunteer for the Juvenile Diabetes Association.
  14. Tony Bennett: Grammy Award winning jazz singer and a member of the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame, Tony Bennett achieves beyond diabetes.
  15. Rick James: Funk legend Rick James had various health issues, including diabetes and the need of a pacemaker.
  16. Jerry Lewis: The comedian, actor, director, and all around entertainer has had two heart attacks, prostate cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis in addition to type 1 diabetes.
  17. James Brown: A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James Brown also suffered from prostate cancer and pneumonia.
  18. Elvis Presley: The King was a sufferer of diabetes.
  19. Wilford Brimley: Wilford Brimley is an actor and diabetes spokesman.
  20. Luther Vandross: Luther Vandross struggled with diabetes, weight problems, hypertension, and stroke.
  21. Larry King: Talk show host Larry King manages his diabetes with medication, checkups, and exercise.
  22. Johnny Cash: The "Man in Black" suffered from diabetes and drug addiction. He was diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy, associated with his diabetes.


Writers and other artists worked past their diabetes to create beautiful works of art.

  1. Ken Kesey: Ken Kesey's LSD-shaped work carried on despite diabetes diagnosed late in life.
  2. Ernest Hemingway: Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway had high blood pressure, liver problems, and diabetes for years.
  3. Mario Puzo: The author of The Godfather had diabetes.
  4. Anne Rice: Anne was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes following a coma and blood sugar level around 800.
  5. Paul Cezanne: Impressionist Cezanne died of pneumonia and complications of diabetes.
  6. HG Wells: The creator of The War of the Worlds was diagnosed with "mild diabetes."
  7. Laura Ingalls Wilder: This author of the Little House on the Prairie died from diabetes and a weak heart.