Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hey, Sweetie, I'm Talkin' To YOU: America's obsession with sugar

November is American Diabetes Awareness month, so I'm hoping to help you become aware: Diabetes is an illness that is affecting more and more people in the US. Type-2 diabetes is considered a “lifestyle-related illness,” meaning that it’s not inherited; rather it is a result of diet, activities and exposure. In fact, the top killers of Americans today are “lifestyle-related” illnesses. Your genes account for about 2-3% of what your overall health will be like. Your choices about what you eat, the amount of physical exercise you get and the things you are exposed to in your environment determine the other 97-98%, according to many doctors and researchers.

According to the American Diabetes Association website, nearly 26 million children and adults in the US have diabetes (they don’t differentiate between type-1 and type-2). Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type-2 diabetes. They estimate that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the US is $174 billion. Yes, that’s not a typo … that’s billion with a “b.”
Early estimates of the cost of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy were in the $10-$20 billion range. Comparing this diabetes price tag to that of the recent devastating storm, that seems like chump-change, doesn’t it?

Many people claim that what they eat and how they treat their body is their own business, but when you see a price tag like $174 BILLION it is obvious that somehow, somewhere down the line, it’s being funded by the masses. While we’re not lined up writing out checks to fund Bud or Andy’s diabetes, America is helping to foot the bill through higher insurance premiums, lost work days, and an assortment of “accessory” illnesses and conditions that accompany this type of disease.

The argument against altering one’s diet and lifestyle is that it is simply too much work – too drastic a change would be needed to facilitate the reversal of this disease. Instead, the accepted route is the “less drastic” approach of fully embracing the diagnosis, constantly monitoring blood sugar levels, relying on medications via pills and injections, and purchasing specialty “diet” foods made with artificial sweeteners and other synthetic ingredients and practically nothing that our bodies recognize as actual nutrients. Seriously?

In the next several posts, I want to address America’s infatuation with sugar and how it plays a MAJOR role in the lifestyle-related illnesses that are wiping out our citizens en masse – including complications resulting from type-2 diabetes. THAT, I consider “drastic.” Eating more fruits and vegetables while foregoing junk foods is a cakewalk compared to:

Heart & blood vessel disease – Usually within 10 years of a type-2 diabetes diagnosis, the victim can expect to develop heart disease. The risk of stroke is two to four times higher for people with diabetes, and the death rate from heart disease is two to four times higher for people with diabetes than for people without the disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Nerve damage – The condition that is type-2 diabetes creates a body chemistry that actually injures the walls of the tiny blood vessels that provide blood supply to your nerves – especially in legs. The tingling, numbness, burning or pain that often begins at the tips of the toes or fingers, gradually spreads upward. Eventually, one can eventually cause lose sense of feeling in all affected limbs. Damage isn’t limited to your arms and legs, however. The nerves that control digestion are also affected. This can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men (and their partners) especially scary can be the common erectile dysfunction that accompanies this disease.

Foot damage – due to poor blood flow to the feet, various complications may arise. When untreated, minor cuts or casual blisters can become serious infections. Amputation is not uncommon when this occurs (my husband recounts a vivid image burned into his memory of a high school friend changing the bandaging on – and in – his diabetic father’s foot. Antibiotic-soaked gauze was stuffed into a cavity in the father’s foot in an attempt to heal the infection from the inside with hopes of preventing amputation).

Other affected body parts include the kidneys, eyes, skin, mouth, bones, and even hearing. An interesting fairly new association linking type-2 diabetes with and increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease is sobering, if none of the above conditions have brought inspiration yet.

Our obsession with sugar and simple carbs is costing us vitality and health. Lifestyle-related illnesses are killing more Americans than drunk drivers, gun-violence, terrorists or influenza but there is no out-cry about it! Please consider raising your awareness of how the foods you put into your body, and the exercise you are (not) doing is affecting not just your health, but our entire society.

(Information regarding consequences from type-2 diabetes from

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