Saturday, June 14, 2014

One more reason to avoid processed sugar

An article in today's New York Times is pretty alarming.

The reporter discusses non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, for which there is no treatment other than lifestyle changes – diet and exercise. A more advanced condition, known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), wasn't even seen 30 years ago, but now threatens the lives of about 5 million Americans.

What's alarming, in addition to the rapid rise of the condition among children and teens, is this final paragraph of the piece:
“A lot of times when I see a patient with fatty liver,” he said, “the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘Well, is there a pill for this?’ And there’s not. There just isn’t. You have to make lifestyle changes, and that’s a much more difficult pill for people to swallow.”
The desire and willingness on the patient's part to medicate him or herself bothers me a lot. Patients are quoted in the article as saying, "It's hard," referring to giving up sugar and eating more vegetables.

When sugary snacks are cheap and readily available, it is hard, especially for young people. And yet our government subsidizes factory farms and manufacturers of food like substances – you know, the folks who produce high-fructose corn syrup – and makes smaller organic farmers pay extra for the privilege of providing fresh, wholesome, natural food.


I compare it – loosely – to the problem we have here in West Virginia with our political leaders' positions on coal. The major party players are pro-coal and anti-EPA. We have raped our mountaintops in the name of coal, sending sludge into the rivers and valleys and fouling the air. Miners and their families are sick, but where else would they work if it weren't for King Coal?

But those major players continue to fight for those dwindling jobs, just as other politicians in Washington continue to fight for the right of Big Agriculture and Big Food to make their constituents sick. And they encourage Big Pharma to find a treatment (not a cure, oh, no, because a cure would mean eradicating the disease and then who would buy the medicine?) for a condition which can be reversed at no cost.

Well, it would be at some cost to snack-food and soda manufacturers.

Diet and exercise. How often have we heard that lifestyle changes can do more good than a pill in a bottle? It comes down to this:

How invested are we – as a country – in our people?

I would say … sadly … not very.


gingerzingi said...

I've often thought the same thing about medication for depression and/or anxiety. Lifestyle changes could very well treat them better than a pharmaceutical, with no side effects. Think about that - no side effects! Only good ones!

(Which is not in any way to suggest that people with those conditions shouldn't seek treatment, no doubt there are situations where a medication is the best solution and it's not for me to judge)

Lifestyle changes ARE hard, as I can attest whenever I try to improve my life. But definitely there's a sort of threshold to get over, where you just can't envision that one CAN live that way. Try it out and discover it's entirely possible, and that in fact millions and millions of people live/have lived that way since the beginning of time and it worked out quite well for them :-)

It's simply difficult for us to envision or believe in something we haven't experienced. You and I are old enough that we remember life without video games or the internet, when we literally walked to a library to get books made out of paper, when fast food and convenience food were rare, etc. So we're familiar with those concepts - but the generations younger than us don't have any experience with that, and to them it's like us hearing about how our grandparents walked 5 miles in the snow uphill. People don't voluntarily elect to make their lives harder; we didn't hear those stories and decide to incorporate those hardships into our own lives. I guess we need to redefine what constitutes a hardship...

Toledo Lefty said...

I don't drink sugar sodas any more, and when I'm having sugar it's in a dessert, not in ketchup, bread, yogurt... I think that most people can handle a moderate amount of sugar (especially if they exercise). The biggest problem with HFCS is that it's so cheap that drink cups became bigger and bigger and it got added to just about everything in the store.