Saturday, March 25, 2006



During the past few days, I have had a little “big sugar;” just the lingering effects of cold, corrected for easily with a little bolus or two. But what to do about the United States’ High Blood Sugar problem? Charlie Rose’s show inspired me to do some research about “Big Sugar,” an industry that is able to put a stranglehold on the political process, most insidiously as it affects the WHO - World Health Organization’s - recommendations on the global epidemic of diabetes and obesity. While I may not count as the “media” – I decided to take my own advice and put some of those contrasts between the food industry and diabetic care I mentioned in my previous post on this blog.


1 – Who Are the Sugar Experts Now? WE ARE

We as Type 1s have to get our own mini-master’s degrees in self-care and carbohydrate digestion, despite a poor climate for good science education in the US. “Both children and adults like me who live with type 1 diabetes need to be mathematicians, physicians, personal trainers and dieticians all rolled into one. We need to be constantly factoring and adjusting, making frequent finger sticks to check blood sugars, and giving ourselves multiple daily insulin injections just to stay alive.” — Actress Mary Tyler Moore (JDRF) The general public is not there with us yet, and indicators suggest that leaders are in short supply. But we can get them there. “Not since the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite has the need to improve science and mathematics education in America been as clear and as urgent as it is today. And never has it been more apparent that the pivot point for change and improvement is the nation’s teachers and the institutions that train them.” National Science Foundation “Talking Points”

2 – We Don’t Have a Choice, But They Do, And WE SHOULD LET OUR REPS KNOW.
All Types of Diabetes cost the US a lot of money, but we are not committed to education;
Cost of diabetes care to the US in 2002: Total (direct and indirect): $132 billion - NDIC
The new budget for the Diabetes and Digestive Health arm of the National Institute of Health is going DOWN by 11% in the 2006-2007 budget. The new budgeted number is 1.8 billion. But, the doubling of co-payments for prescription drugs that some of us have experienced in the past 5 years results in a 10 to 12 percent reduction in use of medications for chronic disease conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. National Center for Health Care Check out Curious Girl's post about what you can do right now.

3 – We Exercise, We Eat Right, WE ARE THE NEW LEADERS
One key to good control is increased aerobic activity, but it is much more than just good HgA1c’s that we are promoting when we dedicate ourselves to healthy lifestyles. "According to analyses by Graham Colditz, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, the direct medical cost of inactivity is at least $24 billion a year. An analysis of health-care costs by a team from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that because individuals who are physically active have significantly lower annual direct medical costs than those who are inactive, getting people to become more active could cut yearly medical costs in the U.S. by more than $70 billion" HSPH Harvard

4 – How former GA rep Zell Miller and other ‘Sugar-Beholden’ Congressional Reps Want to Blame Families – WE ARE SMARTER THAN THAT.
From Ruskin and Schor’s article in the Nation; “During child nutrition reauthorization hearings, the man some have called the Senator from Coca-Cola, Georgia's Zell Miller, parroted industry talking points when he claimed that children are "obese not because of what they eat at lunchrooms in schools but because, frankly, they sit around on their duffs watching Eminem on MTV and playing video games." And that, of course, is the fault not of food marketers but of parents. Miller's office shut down a Senate Agriculture Committee staff discussion of a ban on soda pop in high schools by refreshing their memories that Coke is based in Georgia.” As parents, we know that no matter how healthy our household, we are faced with an overwhelmingly poor media environment to counter. BUT WE DO KEEP GOING. WE CAN OUTLAST THEM.

5 – The Money Is Out There, But Big Sugar Gets It, Not Families – A LOT OF IT, WE CAN GET IT BACK
We make sugar ourselves in the US and yet….US Sugar Imports in 2001 were $480 million while US Sugar Exports 2001 were $3 million USDA, According to Wikipedia, in 2004, Coca-Cola made $21.9 billion. Diabetes costs approximately $1,000 per patient per year. For type one: that means we are spending: $980 Mill. So, they could pay for all of us to be treated each a year and still have 19 Billion. “Growing industry influence is also apparent at the President's Council on Physical Fitness. What companies has the government invited to be partners with the council's Challenge program? Coca-Cola, Burger King, General Mills, Pepsico and other blue chip members of the "obesity lobby." (Ruskin and Schor) These companies, however, are being forced to pre-empt the disaster that was Big Tobacco but implimenting new programs for health and wellness, and avoiding kid-marketing. Will it work? Well, a lot teenagers I see still smoke, but the adults are getting the message. And the more often the JDRFI gets people front-and-center in congress, the better. "Not since AIDS activists stormed scientific meetings in the 1980s has a patient group done more to set the agenda of medical research."
— Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2004.

Where to begin? With the Fanjuls? "Despite its small size, accounting for just 1 percent of American farm receipts and 61,000 direct jobs, sugar is the single largest agricultural donor to political campaigns. The Fanjul family, descendants of a Cuban sugar baron who was forced out after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, operates the nation's largest cane-growing and refining operation through the Flo-Sun Company, based in Palm Beach, Fla. While Alfonso Fanjul Jr. donates to the Democrats, his brother, Jose Fanjul, contributed more than $200,000 for George W. Bush's re-election effort." (New York Times - see below) The sugar industry’s heavy handed lobbying efforts to change WHO recommendation about reducing sugar in children’s diets have been nasty and, according to the reporters, typical of their tactical style. They succeeded in keeping the recommendations weak and vague. (think: “new food pyramid” - ??) But recently, politicians of all stripes are considering letting CAFTA and other free trade negotiations look past sugar...that's a sign of hope right there.

Recommended Reading:
* New York Times
* Common Dreams
* The Nation
* Mother Jones
* (had to find a non-liberal news source so…..) The Heritage Foundation
** Photo from

KSC, thanks for a wonderfully articulated call to arms! The Big Sugar industry, though less often in the political spotlight than others, is no less dangerous to our health and environment. As the stepmom of two Type 1s who's also had a brush with high A1c as an adult, I agree that Big Sugar is an issue that needs to come out of the pantry before the midterm elections.
It was interesting that when Karl Hiaasen's very funny 1994 book, Strip Tease, was made into a movie, the references to the evils of the sugar industry were eliminated. The devastation of the Everglades, the criminal treatment of migrant workers by Big Sugar, the political corruption, etc.
Hey Congratulations on your blog, very easy on the eye and informatative too. If you get chance take a look at my Aerobic Activity site and let me know what you think.
Hey, I recently added a news widget from to my blog. It shows the latest news, and just took a copy and paste to implement. Might interest you too.
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