Last week’s Sun-Times ran a blistering front page article from the American Lung Association in which they called the tobacco industry
“racketeers”. That may well be, but when compared to some other
industries, the tobacco people look almost saintly.
Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic in this country; it is so common place
that people tend to treat it lightly. Most authorities agree that is
preventable and treatable with a diet free of processed, sugary foods.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases, “Diabetes is associated with long-term complications
that affect almost every part of the body. The disease often leads to
blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, strokes, kidney failure,
amputations, and nerve damage. Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate
pregnancy, and birth defects are more common in babies born to women
Women who have diabetes have an 8 times greater risk for developing
coronary heart disease according to World Heart Federation Fact-Sheet
2002. Coronary disease is the leading cause of premature death in the
As I looked in government statistics, I was amazed at the deadly
diseases which begin with blood sugar imbalance. Obesity creates most
adult onset diabetes and that is usually caused by eating too much of
the wrong foods. Eating refined carbohydrates loaded with white flour,
sugar, and high fructose corn syrup day after day creates obesity,
which in turn causes insulin resistance. No longer is the insulin in
your body able to keep up with the empty carbohydrates. In this stage,
blood vessels become damaged from the insulin resistance, even before
diabetes is diagnosed.
Having all this information about diabetes and the diseases it creates,
the food industry still flaunts the very foods that contribute to
diabetes in the face of Americans from the cradle to the grave. Fast
foods have infiltrated the schools, in classrooms as well as lunch
Betsy Imholz, Director of Consumers Union’s West Coast Office, said,
“The system is completely out of balance. The junk food industry is
spending billions of dollars every year to inundate consumers at every
turn with their messages to buy and consume food with little or no
nutritional value. Public health and nutrition messages – and parental
efforts to foster healthful eating habits – are simply being drowned
out.” The group is recommending a tax on soda, candy, snack foods and
fast foods, much as we have a tax on tobacco. The proceeds would then
be used to promote nutrition education.
No longer is tobacco peddled in hospitals to rooms of sick patients.
However, halls in most hospitals are still flanked with vending
machines containing the very “foods” that contribute to the diseases
from which most of their patients suffer. Those same health-destroying
foods are often brought to rooms for sick people to eat. When I have
spent time in hospitals with family members, it was next to impossible
to find anything healthful to eat. Soft drinks, known to be one of the
most health destroying substances, are readily available.
It has been a while since I have had to be there so I am hoping this unbelievable situation has changed.
The food industry is so powerful that it is difficult to get good
information about preventing diabetes or controlling it once you have
it. Few are talking about insulin resistance and the carbohydrates
that cause it. The American Dietetics Association has some good
information about getting fiber and eating whole grains. However, in
their “Five Days of Tasty Meals”, they start the day with blueberry
pancakes, not specifying they should be made with whole wheat flour.
They still recommend margarine over butter. For lunch, they recommend
bread sticks and nothing is said about them being whole wheat.
Nutrition seems not to be a factor, just controlling calories—- in
spite of their own guidelines.
Most of my college friends didn’t smoke back in 1953. As a freshman,
one puff as a freshman ended any temptation for me. A little thought
and you know it cannot be good for you to draw smoke into your lungs.
Junk foods are more deceptive. Now, you are considered weird if you
don’t eat the fast junk food. Tragically, processed foods are
considered “normal”. Perhaps there is a trend to change this insane
approach to food.
People are often led to believe a few pills can take care of diabetes
and the diseases it causes. This attitude has not produced health;
instead, we have run-a-way medical expenses and the miseries of obesity
Yes, there are lots of racketeers on the scene that are making fortunes
off the poor health of Americans. What has happened to integrity?
It is time for us to think for ourselves and not count on the
government (that is heavily influenced by industry lobbying) to take
care of us. Self control and common sense will go far in solving the
health and economic problems of the nation.
Take charge of your health and don’t be a victim of the racketeers.
(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics
from Murray State University, taught home economics, owned and operated
health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, has taught numerous
health and nutrition classes, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in
Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)