In other articles, we have seen the very high rates of type 2 diabetes in the United States. Jeff O’Connell, the author of “Sugar Nation” (2010), “motivated by a personal quest to understand and manage his pre-diabetes” condition, has written a book exposing “one of the largest ‘crimes’ ever committed in the history of health, medicine and nutrition: the blundering, profiteering, and counterproductive information that passes for advice from agencies like the American Diabetes Association and practicing physicians” in the treatment of diabetes.
O’Connell discusses the practices of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which gives misleading advice regarding diet, focuses on research (investing some $450 million in over 4,000 projects since its inception), and accepts funding from the pharmaceutical companies which make diabetes medications and food companies such as Coca Cola and Kellogg’s which produce the sugary foods fueling the diabetes epidemic. He argues that the ADA encourages the taking of drugs as treatment because patients cannot or will not make the lifestyle changes required to control their diabetes.
Just as with medications to treat other diseases such as mental disorders, newer diabetes drugs are being developed which are more costly, but less effective than the older drugs. These drugs come with side effects which include weight gain and cardio-vascular problems. Nearly 25% of people taking metformin suffered from side effects such as kidney problems and chronic liver disease. Besides diabetes pills, drugs are prescribed for hypertension, cholesterol level, and obesity, each carrying additional side effects.
The unspoken message with drug treatment is “get used to taking diabetes drugs because that’s what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life.” This is too bad because when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, people are receptive to making lifestyle changes, but if given a pill, the message is that it is not lifestyle that is the problem. “The biggest problem with the drug culture surrounding type 2 is a mind-set of passive acceptance of patients”. Doctors are responsible for encouraging this mind-set because it takes less time to write a prescription for pills than to ask lifestyle questions and discuss with patients nutritional approaches for which doctors have had little or no training.
Most doctors enjoy some form of relationship with drug companies. “Drug companies own medicine, medical education and medical research in US.” (This is also probably true of Switzerland which is home to several of the world’s major drug companies: Roche, Novartis.)
O’Connell asks, “Is the ADA searching for a cure or simply an industry trade group?” He says that what is lacking is true patient advocacy in the case of diabetes, which means raising awareness that taking drugs is not the solution for type 2 diabetes. He says that the ADA’s recommendation of a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fats worsens diabetes.
For the medical establishment, which focuses on treating disease rather than preventing it, diabetes is a very profitable disease. By mid-2010, 235 new diabetes medications were being developed: 4 for type 1, 59 for diabetes complications and 144 for type 2. Drug companies sometimes falsify test results or market drugs inappropriately. In 2010, Pfizer was penalized $2.3 billion for marketing 13 different drugs for and at unapproved uses and doses. GlaxoSmithKline had to pay $l billion claims related to the antidiabetic drug Avandia because it falsified or failed to report the cardio-vascular risks revealed in study results.
The US health care system is ill-prepared to absorb the ever-increasing number of diabetics. The next generation of diabetics faces the grim prospect of serious complications: dialysis and transplant in middle age rather than old age. The author says that the length and intensity of care required for diabetes complications will increase. This may be due to the increasing numbers of younger persons being diagnosed with type 2.
O’Connell criticizes our whole consumerist culture: “Our society medicates problems” and “people want what they see advertised on TV – new car, new phone, new pill.” He also faults the U.S. Government’s farm policy which subsidizes production of corn from which a sweeter and cheaper alternative to sugar is derived: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Research suggests that excess consumption of HFCS is linked to obesity in both adults and children. It can increase levels of triglycerides (fats) in the blood, which in turn can raise the risk of cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke. A recent study in Cell Metabolism noted:
“Insulin resistance is a common feature of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Both have reached epidemic proportions worldwide with the global adoption of the westernized diet along with increased consumption of fructose, stemming from the wide and increasing use of high-fructose corn syrup sweeteners.
“It is well established that fructose is more lipogenic than glucose, and high-fructose diets have been linked to hypertriglyceridemia, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and insulin resistance.”
The number one source of calories in the United States is high fructose corn syrup in soda. There are about 40 grams of HFCS per can. The use of high fructose corn syrup in the U.S. diet increased a staggering 10,673 percent between 1970 and 2005 due to the fact that most Americans purchase processed pre-packaged foods for their meals which contain HFCS.
Part of what makes HFCS such a dangerous sweetener is that it is metabolized to fat in the body far more rapidly than any other sugar and is responsible for weight gain. Research reported at the 2007 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, found evidence that soft drinks sweetened with HFCS may contribute to the development of diabetes because it contains high levels of reactive compounds that trigger cell and tissue damage that cause diabetes. These compounds are not present in table sugar. HFCS is also known to significantly raise triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol). Triglycerides, the chemical form of fat found in foods and the body puts one at risk of heart disease. See Dr. Mercola’s article, “Why High Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Insulin Resistance” – 24 March 2009
The book does not go into the rapidly growing evidence of environmental factors such as the role of chemical substances in causing obesity and diabetes, including those found in common food and consumer products: mobile phone covers, toys, tin cans, shampoos. Chemical substances include bisphenol A, which escapes into food from plastic packaging and brominated flame retardants, released from upholstered furniture and electronic equipment. (See “The Role of Chemicals in Obesity and Diabetes”.)
by Meris Michaels
by Meris Michaels