Experts now predict that more than one-third of American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the link between obesity and diabetes, this passionate, frightening–but ultimately hopeful–book points the way to a solution.
To enter Dr. Francine Kaufman’s clinic is to see the future of America: a 220-pound twelve-year-old boy…a 267-pound thirteen-year-old girl…their concerned but equally overweight parents…the human faces and human suffering behind the epidemic of type 2 diabetes that threatens to overwhelm our health care system. Once a disease of the elderly, type 2 diabetes now strikes adults in their prime–and, increasingly, children. It has nearly doubled in the last decade. The cause? Our soaring rates of obesity.
Diabesity takes us to the front lines of the fight against this preventable but deadly disease. Through vivid patient stories, it explains how excess weight destroys the body’s ability to process sugar properly–with life-threatening consequences. It shows what happens when the genes that evolved to protect us from famine collide with a sedentary lifestyle that has put bacon cheeseburgers on every corner. And it demonstrates why our usual blame-the-victim response is futile in face of the complex, worldwide forces behind this epidemic.
Detailing the tools for change at every level–from families to school systems to government–and reporting on innovative programs that are already making a difference, Diabesity offers a compelling action plan for winning this battle.
From the Hardcover edition.Just as Fast Food Nation appalled thousands of readers into boycotting McDonalds and its ilk, one can hope that Diabesity might galvanize the public to help prevent a mind-bogglingly huge epidemic from snowballing. Type II diabetes used to be a disease of the elderly; in 1997, the American Diabetes Association decided to do away with the term “adult-onset diabetes,” as it increasingly appeared in middle-aged patients, young adults, and teens. It’s now appearing in obese children, and affects nearly 10 percent of the American population;[p. 13] what’s most unbelievable is that its prevalence nearly doubled between 1990 and 2002, and shows no signs of abating, as every overweight American–that’s 64 percent of the population–is at elevated risk.
Diabesity will likely petrify anyone recently diagnosed with diabetes into scrupulously monitoring their blood-sugar level, with frightening stories of blindness, heart attacks, kidney failure, gangrene, impotence in males, and infertility in females, and other side effects from diabetics’ elevated blood sugar. Dr. Kaufman gets a little full of herself when she describes audiences—from school boards to World Health Organization assemblies—going wild after her speeches on diabetes. But as a pediatric endocrinologist since the 1970s, she’s seen first-hand the rise of the diabetes epidemic, with comatose children appearing in her Los Angeles emergency room with blood-sugar levels 10 times what’s considered healthy, so high that they can’t be read with present-day equipment.
Curiously absent in Diabesity is any mention of the potential link between infant formula and the later development of diabetes. But Kaufman wins points for chronicling the fight to have L.A. ban soda sales in the schools. (“Sodas are the leading source of added sugar in children’s diets.”) Her descriptions of the cultural and economic differences among the diabetes epidemics in China, India, and Ecuador are also intriguing. The book should be considered essential for parents, teachers, and day-care providers; it’s grim reading, but that’s a small sacrifice compared to a life being cut short 20 years by a largely preventable disease. –Erica Jorgensen