Senior Citizens’ Poor Eating Habits

Apr 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

The experts are at it again… telling us we North Americans, including senior citizens, eat too much and get too fat, which sets us up for Type 2 diabetes later in life, if we don’t already have it.  However, this time, physician and author,Kevin Patterson, documents the charge from his personal experience.

Patterson, a Canadian surgeon, talks about the Afghan soldiers, police and civilians he treated in Kandahar while working as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar.  He said the Afghans’ bodies are radically different from those of Canadians he takes care of back home.

“Typical Afghan civilians and soldiers would have been 140 pounds or so as adults. And when we operated on them, what we were aware of was the absence of any fat or any adipose tissue underneath the skin,” Patterson says. “Of course, when we operated on Canadians or Americans or Europeans, what was normal was to have most of the organs encased in fat. It had a visceral potency to it when you could see it directly there.”

And in a recent conversation on NPR, Patterson said the effects of urbanization are making people everywhere in the world both fatter and sicker.

“Type 2 diabetes historically didn’t exist, only 70 or 80 years ago,” says Patterson. “And what’s driven it, of course, is this rise in obesity, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat. That fat induces changes in our receptors that cells have for insulin. Basically, it makes them numb to the effect of insulin.”

Our bodies have an amazing ability to compensate for our poor choices.  For a long time, the pancreas can secrete larger and larger amounts of insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels.  But when overworked so much, the pancreas gives up and cannot secrete enough insulin, so we develop diabetes.

Areas around the world that are copying Western eating patterns are developing abdominal fat and subsequently, diabetes when the pancreas can no longer keep up.  It is a result of fast food chains with exorbitant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat in the food, and easy-to-fix boxed dinners with the same issues.

The secondary issue of great concern is the strain additional diabetic patients have on the health care system, and ultimately on the dialysis population.  Losing kidney function is one of the results of our Western-urbanized-diabetic-prone diet.

“No country in the world has the resources to continue to treat diabetics the way that they’re being treated now, if the prevalence rates increase at the rates that they’re increasing for much longer,” he says. “I worked in Saipan, which is in the Marianas Island in the Pacific, and there, the dialysis population was increasing at about 18 percent a year, all as a consequence of diabetes and acculturation — exactly the same process as what’s going on with the Inuit.

“When you look at the curves, it’s clear how unsustainable it is. In 20 or 30 years, everybody on that island will either be a dialysis patient or a dialysis nurse unless something fundamental is done about the rise in diabetes. That’s no less true in Canada and in Samoa and Hawaii, and even in Omaha and Toronto. We all have exactly the same problem when we plot out those curves.”

So, dear SCJ Friends, we now have another couple of reasons to get it right with diet.

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