Liquid Candy

We all know diabetes and obesity are rising health problems plaguing our country today. As a nation, our belt sizes are getting wider and wider. Sure, some of us blame McDonald’s or fried chicken, but I feel one thing we really need to change is our cultural perception that sodas are beverages.

Sodas have become America’s number one source of calories. They are marketed as beverages, and often come with meals at restaurants, as beverages (and often the only choices). However, sodas are extremely sweet, and when you’re thirsty, or just need some liquid to swallow with your food, there’s no need for one to drink something as sweet as soda to quench the thirst. Rather than as beverage, I think sodas should be thought of more as candy, liquid candy. Afterall, most of them are loaded with artificially-flavored sugar, like candy. Once we see it as candy, it seems inappropriate to have candy when you’re thirsty, or have candy with every meal, whether you’re eating out or eating in. There are families who drink sodas with every meal, not because they want to temporarily indulge in something sweet on the side (as candy is there to satisfy), but because they treat sodas as their main source of daily liquids, rather than water, low-fat milk or other healthier choices. Given that we need about 10 cups of fluid per day, think about how much of this candy some may consume in a day, everyday.

I feel this widespread perception of sodas as standard everyday beverages may be one of the many reasons why diabetes is so common in our society today.

Nowadays type 2 diabetes has become so common that it’s easy to brush it off as something not so serious. But being at the hospital these past few weeks, I have seen some of the consequences of diabetes that people don’t often see on the street. A few weeks ago, I met a friendly middle-aged man who had completely lost his vision due to diabetic retinopathy, in which the persistent long-term high blood sugar levels damage the vessels in the retinal vessel walls in the eyes. He had been diabetic for over 20 years and had lived as a blind man for 5 years and now he came into the hospital from complaints of a “dry foot.” As I lifted up the bedsheets to reveal the foot he was talking about, I was horrified to find his foot below the ankle to be completely black, shriveled, and dry. Although he could not see me, I kept a calm composure and voice. He had dry gangrene, a complication of progressive long-term diabetes.  His foot was necrotic from lack of circulation, and literally dead and rotting. Like several other patients with similar conditions that I have seen before, his foot will have to be amputated, before the necrosis spreads to consume the rest of his leg or more.

He’ll be unable to walk as he did before, let alone do the exercise that he much needs. It’s already bad enough to lose a foot, but I’ve seen worse. I’ve met patients who had not one, but several amputations over the years, first starting with an amputation of a few gangrenous toes, and then the foot, and eventually amputation of everything below the knee as necrosis and circulation does not improve. Eventually, patients who lose so much of their limbs from necrosis may even become bed-bound, and develop decubitus ulcers from laying down too long, causing parts of the thighs, hips, and other areas to sustain so much vascular obstruction that those parts even get lesions and start to undergo necrosis. It makes me so mad and sad to see decubitus ulcers, as they could have been prevented by having the caretaker turn the patient regularly every few hours, and not to mention, the prevention of diabetes.

Meeting these patients at the hospital and seeing their deteriorating conditions immediately made me really want to do something for my own health, to exercise more, and eat healthier, and in particular, to reduce the sweets I consume as much as I can. As a society we need to encourage ourselves to take care of our mind and body and ultimately, change some of our cultural perceptions and habits to make better choices. Let’s keep sodas in the realm of candy, limiting its consumption to maybe the occasional birthday party or celebration, and keep it out of the realm of everyday foods.

4 comments to Liquid Candy

  • Benji,

    I read your account of your experience in the psych hospitals in the UK and the U.S. I’m the Executive Director of the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry. We’re having our annual conference in Philadelphia on November 2 and 3, 2012. I think any of you who are interested in going into psychiatry would benefit greatly from attending our conference. We are putting together a student rate which will make it more affordable to attend. Please let me know if you or some of your colleagues are interested. You can look us up at http://www.psychintegrity.org

  • Davey

    Keep spreading the word – so many health nuts keep pointing the finger at fat/cholesterol as a leading cause of heart disease/illness but are completely nieve that much of this health food is filled with sugar and high on carbs which spike ones insulin when eating foods that are close to 100 on a glycemic index (such as soda). Sugar is the next cigarette, people need to wake up and realize we are addicted to sitting on our butts and eating high sugar foods.

    • Benji

      Hey Davey, I completely agree. I also think it’s funny when some food products boast that they are “fat free” and “natural” to make them sound healthier, but actually contains tons of sugar (often to compensate for the taste) that they don’t advertise on the packaging.

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