Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Diabetes Epidemic - A Consequence of Our Culture

Diabetes is a disease I am painfully familiar with. My 13-year old son has had Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes since he was 13 months old. There are about 2 million Type 1 diabetics in the U.S. The cause is unknown but it is believed to be connected to an immune system disorder.

Type-2 diabetes afflicts at least 18 million (health experts say there are millions more undiagnosed cases). It is caused primarily by poor diet and lack of exercise, although genetic factors strongly affect one's predisposition to the disease.

This terrible disease is rightfully getting a great deal of attention. Last week the New York Times ran an excellent series of articles examining the impact of diabetes on people in East Harlem and the affects on the health care system.

Today, the Boston Globe's lead editoral deals with the topic.

I can talk all day about the diabetes epidemic in America. But I just want to make one point here. Everyone focuses on the causes - processed foods, poor diets, too many calories, lack of regular exercise, too much marketing of junk foods. And they should. But the remedies offered usually focus only on changing eating and exercise habits.

Both are necessary but not sufficient. Diabetes is the consequence of America's convenience culture and the stigma attached to spending time in the kitchen cooking. An entire generation of Americans believe that preparing meals from scratch takes too much time and work. Until this belief changes, the fight against obsesity and its terrible consequences like diabetes will be a losing battle.


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