July 31, 2017

TAX SUGAR INSTEAD OF SUBSIDIZING IT:

We need to start viewing type 2 diabetes as a lifestyle issue (PHIL WHITAKER, 7/31/17, New Statesman)

Diabetes causes serious complications: blindness, kidney failure and heart disease, to name but three. Traditionally, doctors have doled out pills and injections to help prevent its sequelae. We perform regular blood tests to monitor things, and are forever adding new treatments to tighten sugar control.

We may mention lifestyle factors such as weight, diet and exercise, but our every action conveys to patients that this is not what we're really interested in. Patients learn that they "have" a disease called diabetes, and become passive recipients of ongoing medical care. They even become eligible for free prescriptions, such is the importance we attach to drug therapy. But many of our treatments (and our flawed dietary advice) actually cause further weight gain. Once someone gets sucked on to the medical merry-go-round, there's virtually no way off.

The burgeoning rates of diabetes reflect the current epidemic of obesity. We're surrounded by cheap, delicious, energy-dense foodstuffs. For too many people, "exercise" equates to the walk from the car to the supermarket door. It's gradually dawning on the medical profession that we have to stop treating type 2 diabetes as a disease; we can't keep turning millions of people into long-term patients.

The alternative is a cultural shift to viewing type 2 diabetes as a lifestyle issue. Around the country, the NHS is beginning to offer newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics referral on prescription for exercise, weight loss, dietary advice and cooking skills. This approach needs to be far bolder. Currently these "lifestyle prescriptions" last for up to 12 weeks, after which patients are left to get on with it. Offering free prescriptions for, say, a maximum of six months, but unlimited free access to gyms and weight-loss classes, would start to send the right signal.



Posted by at July 31, 2017 1:27 PM

  

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