Stop the Diabetes Explosion
Link to Article | http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/opinion/article/1115767
Written By: Charles W. Moore
WEDNESDAY, June 30th 2010 (Telegraph Journal) — Some two million Canadians are diabetic, and according to a new report released by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), that figure will double over the next seven years. ICES projects that by 2017, four million, or nearly one-in-10 Canadians will be afflicted with adult-onset diabetes, adding a huge increased burden of personal suffering, premature death, and further stressing already wobbly health care budgets.
The Type 2 Diabetes Guide says Canada’s highest rates for the disease are in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Health Canada ranks diabetes officially as the seventh leading cause of mortality, but says the actual number of deaths in which diabetes is a contributing factor would probably be five times higher.
The largest factor causing the diabetes demographic to skyrocket is excess body weight. Roughly one-quarter of Canada’s adult population has body mass indices (BMI) of 30 (the threshold for obesity) or greater. However, while clinically obese individuals have the highest risk of developing diabetes, it’s actually the group categorized as merely overweight (a BMI of 25 to 29.9, into which roughly 35 per cent or nearly nine million Canadians fall) that will account for the greatest increase in new diabetic cases, simply by force of numbers.
Together, the Atlantic Provinces take four of the top five rankings for overweight/ obesity. According to U.S. studies, obese people incur 42 per cent greater health care costs annually than healthy-weight individuals.
The ICES study also found that new diabetes cases going forward will appear in relatively younger age groups. Principal investigator Dr. Doug Manuel of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute told CTV News that the most important preventative measure against diabetes is weight control, and that statistically, lowering average wright weight by just 3.3 per cent would prevent 10 per cent of new diabetes cases.
Likelihood of becoming obese is associated almost exclusively with two lifestyle factors: bad diet and insufficient exercise. People who eat fruit and vegetables fewer than three times a day are much more likely to be obese than individuals who consume those foods five or more times a day, and those whose work and/or leisure-time is sedentary are more likely than the physically active to be obese.
A higher proportion of service-related livelihoods as opposed to manufacturing and resource jobs, combined with computers, the Internet, a multi-channel TV universe, home-cinema, game consoles, ATVs and other powered toys, all conspire against maintaining active lifestyles. A recent Canadian Health Measures survey revealed that Canadian adults’ health deteriorated markedly between 1981 and 2009 in areas such as general fitness level, waist circumference, and incidence of high blood pressure.
Either you exercise or you don’t, but diet-wise, it’s more complex.
Getting people to permanently change eating habits is nearly as difficult as convincing them to change religions – maybe more difficult in some cases. Dietary traditions run in families and communities, creating strong cultural, familial, and emotional associations on top of being rooted in acquired taste and appetite.
Unhappily, the diet most North Americans are conditioned to is arguably one of the worst in history – heavy in fatty fast foods, greasy fried foods, high-fat dairy products, processed foods, soft drinks, fries and chips, white bread, pastries and baked goods, margarine, junk-food snacks, sweets and sugary desserts; with few of the vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit that are key to any really healthy diet. Sugar, refined flour products, and low-quality fats are the main offenders, with meat an accessory accomplice. Meat (lean bits anyway) is one of the few elements that actually has substantial healthy nutritional value, but fish is a better choice.
Unfortunately, loading foods with fat and sugar is a cheap and easy way to make them taste good – “mouth feel!” It’s tough convincing parents to deny their kids ice cream, sugary-fatty confections, baked foods, chips, hamburgers and hot dogs, cheese, fries, and snack foods, or for that matter to give up these tasty items themselves.
Maritz Research’s “Report Card on Nutrition for school children” gave Atlantic Canada an “F,” finding fewer than half (42 per cent) the region’s six- to 17-year-olds eating the minimum four servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, and only 48 per cent the minimum two servings of whole grains and cereals daily.
This region has the highest consumption of french fries in the country. Almost half (49 per cent, compared with 19 per cent in Quebec) of Atlantic Canadians guzzle soft drinks daily. A Harvard School of Public Health study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found subjects drinking one or more sugar-sweetened drinks daily showed 83 per cent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Heading off the looming diabetes catastrophe is straightforward in theory. Eat better and get more exercise. It’s the level of sustained discipline required that’s the problem.