by Barbara Berkeley, MD
Cue the gorilla in the room. Can you please start roaring and waving your arms? What's that you say? Despite a killing rampage, still no one notices you?
You are dying of diabesity. You are living in a country where 46% of the adult population has some form of impaired sugar metabolism--either pre-diabetes or diabetes itself. Let me shout this. FORTY SIX PERCENT!!!! Adult diabetes is a disease that develops most commonly when people get overfat. Once it happens, it is a disease that revolves around sugar. It is a disease in which insulin, the master hormone that controls sugar in the blood, is not working properly. As a result, too much sugar is made into fat and/or sugar levels get too high in the bloodstream. This problem wreaks havoc and destruction throughout the body.
Our bodies are fastidious about controlling the amount of each and every element that floats within our blood vessels. Sugar is no exception. In the 5 quarts of blood we possess, our blood vessels are allowed to carry one teaspoon of sugar. When we eat foods that turn into sugar after digestion (sugars themselves or starches), untold teaspoons of sugar flood into the bloodstream. If insulin is not working properly, we are in big trouble. And believe me, we are in trouble.
For some reason, our insulin systems are struggling and failing. Could it be something we breathe, something we ingest, something we are exposed to? Or could it simply be the fact that we overtax the sugar system so hugely and so routinely that it eventually quits on us? Either way, we are sugar sick.
Not meat sick.
Last week, a debate arose around a Los Angeles City Council proposal advocating Meatless Mondays in L.A. The usual positions were taken. On one side, those who think that giving up meat is the key to health cheered, on the other, those who are outraged at any suggestion that government might intervene in food choice complained.
While I don't advocate the eating of meat that is poorly raised or stuffed with grain, I don't think that meat is our primary problem. But in this, I do agree. Government should not be making dietary pronouncements without fully exploring their truthfulness and utility.
What do we do when we suggest that people eat less animal protein? For the vast majority of people, we tilt them toward an increased carbohydrate intake by allowing them to substitue pastas and grains. And, lest we forget, this is a country that is sick to death as a result of the sugars that are produced by these foods.
If we are to make a suggestion, why not promote Low-Carb Wednesdays--one day a week that we vow not to eat sugars or starches other than vegetables and fruits? Why not, indeed? Because carbs remain the third rail of dietary politics. Suggestions that people limit the foods that addict them most and kill them most readily invites prosecution for dietary overreach and heresy. Forgo steak for a day? No big deal. Breadless Tuesdays? Forget about it.
The howls that are raised when decreasing carbs is suggested have been enough to drown out the bellowing of the gorilla in the room. But with ever increasing rates of death and disability from our growing sugar problem, it's time to quiet down and listen to the frightening sound that really should be keeping us up at night