Diabetes Hype without Hope

by Helen Lobato

I try to keep a discerning eye on the media. This time it was the local community papers that got me stirred up.

The Knox Leader ran with a front page story that DIABETES cases in Knox have soared 85 per cent in five years, prompting a prominent diabetes organisation to call on the Knox Council to help fight the ``epidemic''.

Meanwhile over in the Northern suburbs in the City of Moreland, residents are actually ‘eating themselves to an early grave’, according to their trusty Leader newspaper.

In Fact: " New figures show Moreland is the third worst council area for diabetes in Melbourne." Diabetes Australia statistics have it that 5641 Moreland people or 4.15 per cent of the city's population now have the disease, almost double that of 2001.

Diabetes Australia (Victoria) chief executive Greg Johnson has written to each Victorian mayor, urging them to introduce community programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and increase education about diabetes. ``We are calling on mayors and chief executives of local government areas to make diabetes prevention a priority,'' he said.

I google in the words:

Diabetes, epidemic and leader newspapers, and I find another municipality is also afflicted with the diabetes scourge. This time it’s BRIMBANK, also in the grip of a diabetes epidemic. Leader newspapers tells us that this municipality also has more people with the disease than any other metropolitan area.

From my reading of Melbourne's local print media one can see a familiar pattern emerging.

Dare I try another google search?

I go ahead and there on the screen was Whittlesea, where residents are being urged to get active and eat healthy food after a study found Whittlesea had the second largest increase in people with diabetes in Metropolitan Melbourne.

These dire news reports from the local papers were published in the first week of December 2006.

Let's look at this disease.

We know that the incidence is rising and that this is a huge problem for society and the people concerned. However my problem is the hype and alarm that is becoming the hallmark of our disease industry. I do have to worry about such organisations as The Diabetes Australia Organisation, the Arthritis Foundations and Beyond Blue pushing their particular barrows.

What do we know about these organisations? Who supports them? Are they independent of drug company influence and money?

People with chronic health problems rely on these advocacy groups and peak medical bodies for independent advice and support. But can we really trust such advice?

We need to understand that our advocacy groups are becoming more and more hooked on drug companies’s money and that they are in turn promoting their products and drugs. In the case of diabetes, drug companies such as AlphaPharm, Merck and Novo Nordisk are financial supporters of Diabetes Australia Organisation, giving about $100,000 in the year 2003. In the past few years, Diabetes Australia has also won support from other diabetes drug producers, such as Aventis, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Parke Davis (now part of Pfizer), Roche and Servier.

What these organisations are really advocating once again is just testing and treatments. There is no talk of prevention or a cure. Such action is not part of the equation.

Doctors will tell you that diabetes is not curable and that you will have to test your blood levels and take their pills for the rest of your unhealthy life. There is no money in prevention and certainly not enough for a cure. But there is plenty of money in testing and treating people in our disease industry.

Just what is diabetes ?

Type I diabetes, can be called insulin-dependent or childhood diabetes. This condition usually develops before the age of 30, and involves a malfunction of the pancreas.

Type II diabetes or more commonly called (mature onset diabetes) occurs when for many years the consumption of foods that raise the blood sugar chronically exceeds the amount of sugar needed by the muscles for exercise. This forces the body to gradually make more and more insulin in order to bring this sugar level down. Eventually, the body cannot make enough insulin to lower the sugar level, and the sugar level remains chronically high with the patient being diagnosed diabetic.

This then leads to the condition of insulin resistance which occurs in the setting of chronically elevated blood sugars and rising insulin levels. In response to the barrage of high sugar the cells build a protective shield around them in order to protect themselves from the influx of excessive glucose coming into the cell.

Although circulating blood sugar levels remain high, cellular sugar levels are low. Diabetes is a disease that affects almost every cell in the 70 trillion or so cells of the body. All of these cells are dependent upon the food that we eat for the raw materials they need for self repair and maintenance.

This leads to the cycle of diabetes where the body perceives itself to be hungry because the glucose cannot be used by its hungry cells. The symptoms of diabetes come from the basic cellular failure to metabolise glucose properly. In the setting of diabetes type 11 there are also elevated insulin levels. These high insulin levels lead to the retaining of fluid causing edema and hypertension. High insulin levels also mean that plaque development occurs inside the arteries.

Another reason for the increase in diabetes today is the use of Trans Fats. These are the modern hydrogenated oils and margarines that are found in plentiful supply in the modern processed diets.When these man-made fats get built into the cell membrane, they interfere with the insulin receptors.

But, for the financial profits of the disease industry people would be educated on the causes of diabetes and not just told to visit their doctor and their pharmacy. Diabetes can be cured by following a strict 60-70 gram per day carbohydrate intake and implementing a nourishing traditional diet consisting of good fats and non-starchy vegetables without overeating protein.

We need to become activists around the issues of good healthy eating.

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