The Danish Diabetes Bomb
Today in the Berlingske – one of the many reputable newspapers here in Denmark – there are two separate articles that attempt to address the issue of some recently released statistics that suggest that, by 2025, the number of Danes diagnosed with diabetes will have doubled from its current mark of 300.000 people, to 600.000. The big concern everyone is sounding the bells about, is that the health administration has not currently allocated enough money to properly care for this inevitable rise in diabetics over the next 12 years.
Articles like this infuriate me for a variety of reasons. First, and probably most notably, the blanket statement that the government should prepare for a diabetes “bomb” by 2025 by boosting the budget today is totally one-dimensional and reactive. Has it occurred to anyone that we might use the current statistic (which states that the number of diabetes has doubled in the past ten years) to change our behavior now, and instead prevent the number from continuing to rise?
Diabetes is one of those diseases that is 100% caused by lifestyle. You can argue this point with me until the cows come home and I will still stand by this fact. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you make up 90% of all diabetic diagnoses, and your lifestyle and diet are what caused it. You may have been genetically predisposed to the disease because of your parent’s diet, but your lifestyle is what pushed you over the edge. If you have Type 1 diabetes, this is a genetic disorder, but the science of epigenetics (which, by the way, still hasn’t been added to my computer’s dictionary it’s so new) makes a clear case that even here, with a healthy lifestyle and a diet, anything you might have otherwise been genetically predisposed to, can be reversed (to clarify, the disposition can be reversed, not the disease itself, thus preventing the disease from occurring in later generations). Look it up if you don’t believe me. In fact, look it up even if you do.
Before I moved to Denmark, one could claim I lived in a hole that we will call New York City. My closest friends and allies were either in the health industry, or actively involved in it, and we all got off on talking about body chemistry, physiology, spiritual energy, lifestyle, real food… I’m not joking when I say that it was, and still is, rare to go to a party with these people where one of those topics does not come up, and then proceeds to get discussed ad nauseum for the next three hours. I will also be totally honest that this fact is one of the biggest among many reasons why I love my friends so much. They aren’t just interested in maintaining what works and passively listening to the media promote fad diets that serve as an easy button but ultimately never work – they are interested in challenging their threshold of what it means to be healthy, and finding out if it’s possible to feel even better than they do right now, in this very moment.
So suffice it to say, I’m still on the hunt for my crowd in Denmark who is willing to entertain a conversation about sugar, the definition of “healthy” food and what this all means for your body. I’m feeling pretty thankful that my crossfit friends seem to be totally on board with the topic, so I’m obviously super jazzed about spending more time with these people. Just last Friday we spent two hours talking about the negative effects of grain and sugar on the body, how that effects your genes if you’re sensitive to it, inflammation and what it means, how certain types of exercises can actually influence the way your cells behave…to sum up, I think I’ve found my kindred spirits of the Danish variety. 🙂
But alas, I digress, as I am wont to do. I simply do not believe that no one in this 12-party Danish political system has come up with the brilliant idea of attempting to reverse reversible diseases via education, knowledge, and access to healthy foods so that the government doesn’t have to keep paying for sick people who wouldn’t get sick in the first place if they knew better, or their parents knew better (how’s that for a run-on?). I know in the past the most prominent and minimally successful suggestion has been to add taxes to foods that are unhealthy (and we saw how long that lasted before everyone figured out people were just making more trips to Germany for their Haribo fix), but I also wonder if the gains from those taxes were then directed to caring for the very same people who ate the foods that made them sick in the first place. I honestly doubt it. At least not directly.
The sad truth is that I can almost expect this sort of reaction from an enormous, capitalistic society like the US, where not just the medical system and insurance companies, but also the agricultural and food industries, rely heavily on people staying sick and addicted to food that is slowly killing them (doesn’t make it right, but unfortunately this is the cold, hard truth). But when the relationship is [supposedly] directly from people to government, and back again, as it is in Denmark, I believe we should expect more.
Either way, we cannot continue to live in an ignorant world where we blindly consume sugar and cake and candy and soda and then point our fingers at the government to support us when our bodies finally revolt and become diabetic (or develop any other dietary/lifestyle influenced disease). BUT, in a welfare state like Denmark, we do have the power (and the money) to instead allocate energy and funds toward education, so that people might eventually understand how to live, and then maybe also aspire to maintain, a healthier lifestyle.
And just like that, BOOM, no more diabetes bomb.
(Oh, and apropos, it seems efforts toward becoming healthy and better educated can alter previously negative forecasts with other things too, like Dementia – glad to see Denmark was a part of this study, maybe there’s hope yet.)