There’s a disease epidemic that we can solve without throwing more money at the drug corporations, writes Carrie Steele.I CAME CLOSE to throwing something heavy at my television screen recently. I know I should have just turned it off the minute I heard the provocative headlines about the upcoming ‘news’ items, but for some reason I’ve taken it upon myself to endure these tortuous stories, if they are food or health related. It all helps me to piece together the enormous jigsaw I’m working on (in my mind) that is fast producing a clear picture of just why Planet Earth and its inhabitants are in the mess we’re in.
Does anyone really believe for even a second that bottling Coke in smaller sizes is going to have any measurable effect on health? And what about the fact that the small bottle costs more than the larger one – how enticing is that to the guzzlers who can’t go a day without their fix? (Apparently diet sodas aren’t doing anything to help, either. In fact, some interesting studies show that our bodies recognise artificial sweeteners as ‘junk food’, and store the calories accordingly. It turns out, “food is not just all about calories, it’s information which we send to our genes”.) Enough said on the Coke front though, I’ve got a far more important gripe.
The recent news item on the ‘revolutionary’ new drug to treat Type 2 diabetes really got my blood boiling. Once again the focus was on why Pharmac should fund this magic pill, and in the meantime we should feel sorry for the people who are shelling out to pay for it themselves, to treat their diabetes. Notice I said ‘treat’, not cure – not even the manufacturers would be dumb enough to make that claim.
The item ended with a brief word of warning regarding the lack of information regarding any associated risks/dangers of taking the new drug. That message I’m sure will have gone largely unheard, as Type 2 diabetics latch onto the promise of yet another miracle to treat what is largely a totally preventable condition.
This new wonder drug is likely to end up on the scrapheap in 10 years, leaving sicker (or dead) people in its wake. Earlier this year another drug for Type 2 diabetes (Actos) was in the firing line, as New Zealanders who developed bladder cancer after taking it were urged to join a group lawsuit in Australia against the drug’s manufacturers. That drug had been widely prescribed between 2001-2009 and unlike in the US where it warned it may cause bladder cancer, it carried no such black box warning in our part of the world.
Let’s be clear here, Type 2 diabetes is about too much insulin (insulin resistance), and is directly related to diet and lifestyle, whereas Type 1 is an auto-immune disease which results in damage to the pancreas and a lack of insulin as the body stops being able to produce any. What both conditions do have in common is that left uncontrolled, they cause devastating effects on the body. According to the statistics I’ve found, in NZ there are around 200,000 diabetics, and it is thought that another 100,000 people have the condition but don’t know it. Only about 10 percent of the 200,000 cases are Type 1. The implications are startling: that means almost 90 percent of the cases are totally preventable.
The burden that treatment of Type 2 diabetes and its associated illnesses is putting on our health system is huge and I don’t see how it can be sustained if some drastic reduction in the current levels of new cases are not made, and soon. We should also stop associating Type 2 diabetes exclusively with obesity. For a start, I’ve read that carrying even less than 20 pounds of excess weight greatly increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and furthermore, certain ethnicities develop the condition with no weight gain at all, simply as they adopt a western diet. Globally, from 1983 to 2008 the number of people in the world with diabetes increased from 35 million to 240 million. In the three years from 2008 to 2011 another 110 million diabetics were added globally to the tally. And if this isn’t fuel to the fire for the diet and lifestyle link then I don’t know what is: By 2010, there were 93 million diabetics in China alone, where 25 years ago the rate of diabetes was virtually nil.
So long as we continue to look for a magic pill to ‘cure’ Type 2 diabetes, the search will be fruitless. Once again, I believe firmly that as Dr Colin Campbell has been telling us for years, the solution for this and most of the current killer diseases comes down to three things: “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. While I make a clear distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, it’s hard to ignore that the rates of both of these types are increasing. In my mind, that is cause for hope… that possibly the same approach to prevent or reverse Type 2 could also be of benefit to Type 1 sufferers.
In New Zealand, Type 1 diabetics recently spoke out regarding their concerns about the quality of new blood testing meters introduced by Pharmac in March, reporting that the Korean-made (CareSens) meters produce inaccurate readings which could endanger lives. Pharmac opted to cut funding for all other meters and strips to make way for these cheaper products to save around $10 million a year. It was estimated that it costs a million dollars to support a diabetic throughout a lifetime – so what we are we doing to turn the tables on those 90 percent of largely preventable cases in NZ alone? Not enough.
Type 2 diabetes is a global epidemic, and the tragedy of this is that it need never have occurred. If the epidemic continues unchecked, cheaper and cheaper forms of treatment will have to be developed to cope with demand, and aside from crippling the health system worldwide, there is no doubt that lives will be endangered in many ways as a result. It is time for the medical professional to stop pussy-footing around what we already know, and what the pharmaceutical industry will never tell us because it is in our best interests, not theirs, that poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the killers that stalk us.
Dr Mark Hyman’s book The Blood Sugar Solution is a book that everyone should read. If you have a family member or friend with diabetes (either type) I heartily recommend that you tell them about this book. His dedication at the front of the book is sobering: “For the first generation of children in history that will live sicker and die younger than their parents”. CARRIE STEELE