Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obesity - the Sure Road to Diabetes


There was a time when the mark of success was the gentleman with the rotund midsection.  No more.  The advances in research have shown time and again how deleterious excess weight is to health.  At the time when the chubby gentleman was the epitome of success, people also did not live as long.  Babies were also considered to be healthy when chubby.  Of course, all this points to the fact that "success" meant having plenty of money and easy access to goods and services; ergo, the round belly as the symbol of good living.

We now know -- or at least, there seems to be a solid movement afoot, that overweight is anything but healthy.  Nor is it the mark of success.  Quite the contrary: Studies have shown that the poorer folks have a higher incidence of obesity.  So much for the rotund gentleman.

Yet, we are a fat nation.  Over the past 30 years, with all the advances in re-engineering foods to be low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt (and low taste, I might add), our national incidence of diabetes has more than tripled (from 6 million people with diabetes in 1980 to close to 19 million in 2009).  Moreover, another 66 million people are considered prediabetics.  That's a third of our population!  What does this have to do with obesity?  Obesity is the number one cause of diabetes, bar none! 

Consider that although the food industry has given us all manner of sugar-free and fat-free food substitutes over the past 30 years, those efforts have been sabotaged by restaurants offering ever-larger portions of old standbys: gargantuan hamburgers, 2 for 1 offerings, french fries and all-you-can-eat buffets.  The caloric content of a Wendy's Caramel Frosty Shake packs 1020 calories!  That's enough to nourish an average-sized woman for an entire day! And a McDonald's Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips comes in at 1270 calories.  Hmm.  Oh, don't worry, this is not an indictment of those two fast-food establishments: ALL restaurants nowadays compete for the consumer's money by offering larger and more calorie-dense fare.  Witness the enormous plates that are intended to represent just one entrée.  Is it any wonder we are fat?

So what's the big deal with diabetes?  Why should we care?  For one thing, healthcare costs are at the heart of this nation's fiscal problems.  And the federal government pays for a full 60% of patients' medical costs for diabetes-connected diseases.  This is outrageous.

The food lobbies are very powerful.  In many ways, they are winning the war.  Notwithstanding the attempts to provide substitute for our love affair with salt, sugar and fat, on the other side of the aisle are enormous portions; television programs that glorify gluttony (Man vs. Food; Paula Dean's Best); candy and soda machines in every school; and a Congress that condoned french fries on school lunch menus, as well as allowing that 2 tablespoons of tomato paste on a pizza be considered a vegetable! 

We must learn better eating habits.  As a nation, our physical health - and healthcare costs - do not match this country's status as best in the world.  We have the resources; we have the education; we have the wherewithall - let us now have the will to change.   Educate your children in better food choices; change your TV watching habits; recognize that you, alone, are responsible for your health.  The American way is the way of individualism and independence - let us rally and together demand that our elected officials respond in our best interests.