Jay Cutler Denver Broncos Quarterback dealing with NFL defenses and Type 1 Diabetes

Editor’s Note:  This article came out in one of the previous issues of our magazines and the information has not been updated.

Article originally appeared in 2008, by Jonathan Jarashow

The national football league’s Denver Broncos are led by quarterback Jay Cutler, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound emerging star with a bright future ahead of him. Like all quarterbacks, in order to be effective, he has to stay healthy. But Cutler is unique among his peers in that he has to cope not only with the weekly impact of punishing hits from swarming defensive linemen, but also with a disease taking an even greater physical toll until he was diagnosed last April: Type 1 diabetes.



Cutler, who was drafted by the Broncos with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, threw for 3,497 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. After his play dropped off at the end of the 2007 season, he wondered what might be the cause. A routine physical gave him the answer.

“I had diabetes for six and a half months and I had no idea; it was just a random physical blood test that found it. We did physicals about two weeks earlier, and I was just going to work out. They had just gotten everyone’s results back, and my blood levels were like so high that they sent me straight to the doctor when I got in to work.”


At first it was hard for Cutler to adjust. Before a workout, his blood glucose levels would be in the range of 130–150 mg/dL. But after working up a sweat, they would drop. To keep his blood levels in check, he now stops midway to check his levels and has a sports drink to keep them in a moderate range. It took some getting used to, but now instead of checking over 20 times a day, Cutler checks it no more than 10 times a day.

Support is a major factor in how Cutler manages to have type 1 diabetes and still play in the NFL. His family and friends have, of course, been a big source of support, as have his teammates. “My teammates have been great. They’ve kind of given me my privacy about it, but they’re always making sure I’m all right out there. If my blood sugar gets low, they’ll find some Gatorade for me. It’s worked out well so far.”

Off the field, Cutler has a great diabetes team he meets with regularly, including the Broncos doctor and nutritionist and the Colorado University Hospital staff. Cutler also reached out to his quarterback coach from Vanderbilt University, who coincidentally was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 25.

It may be difficult at times for Cutler to balance his diabetes care with his football needs, but he makes it work. “For 24 years of my life, I was eating whatever I wanted and drinking whatever I wanted to drink. And then one day you’re told you have to watch what you eat—it was definitely a big change.” His diet has become a much healthier one, where chicken, fish and vegetables are staples. Cutler is fortunate to have all his meals prepared for him by the same people who do the catering for the rest of the team. He tries to keep his carbohydrate intake down, but as a professional quarterback, he burns a lot more calories through his intense daily workouts than the average person with diabetes. His activity level requires him to keep his weight up, so sometimes he does load up on carbs, but he tries to keep them healthy ones.

As part of his diabetes care plan, Cutler picks up his insulin at his local Walgreens Pharmacy and uses a wireless insulin pump called an Omnipod. He is able to work out wearing the Omnipod, but takes it off once the game starts. Cutler also uses the Navigator continuous blood glucose device that updates every minute.


Cutler knows he is in the public eye and wants to be a good role model. He is amazed about 85 percent of the fan mail he receives is now from kids 15 or younger with diabetes, encouraging him and giving him advice. He knows these kids need support and assurance that they too can live normal lives even with diabetes. After the season, Cutler looks forward to giving back to the community by getting involved with Dedicated to Diabetes, a Denver-based organization that aims to improve public knowledge about diabetes. Cutler’s diabetes care routine is working well, and he is back to his pre-diagnosis form. Says Cutler: “I’m doing great now. I’ve gained all my weight back, all my strength, and it’s going really well. The fast-acting insulin helped out tremendously. It gave me the ability to eat normally again and get my weight back. So I feel great; I feel like I did a year ago.”

Football fans in Denver, and his new fans with diabetes who are pulling for him from across the country, certainly hope Cutler is back to his old form—and strong enough to lead his Broncos back to prominence in the NFL.

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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and www.NutritionStarringYOU.com. Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded NutritionBabes.com, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. NutritionBabes.com was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

Marlene Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) is a nationally recognized nutritionist, popular TV personality and New York Times bestselling author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is a registered dietitian and one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

She has been interviewed and quoted in media outlets for WebMD, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has partnered with V-103 Radio to lead supermarket tours as part of a community outreach during National Nutrition Month.

Cheryl helps her clients reach balance through lifestyle choices: cooking and eating, activity and purpose in life.

Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

OmnichannelHealth Media, publisher of DiabetesDigest.com, does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.