Another Must-Read Article about Diabetes in the New York Times
Posted Dec 18 2008 8:13pm
Today, the New York Times published journalist N.R. Kleinfeld's second powerful article in its four-part series on the terrible epidemic of diabetes.
This piece focuses on East Harlem, a New York City neighborhood that's been devastated by diabetes. The article is chock-full of sad, cautionary tales about the perils of a high-sugar diet that anyone, anywhere would do well to heed.
According to Kleinfeld's story, East Harlem residents die of diabetes twice as much as people in the city as a whole. There are more diabetes-related hospitalizations of East Harlem residents than in any other section of New York. It has the city's largest percentage of obese people. Amputations due to diabetes are more frequent there than in any other New York neigborhood.
Medical professionals think several factors are responsible for the prevalence of diabetes in East Harlem, according to the Times article. Ninety % of its residents are black and Hispanic, and some experts believe those groups have a genetic predisposition to the disease. It also has a high rate of poverty, and too many East Harlem residents lack access to good medical care and healthful food choices.
For example, the Times piece cites a Mt. Sinai hospital study, which found that stores on the Upper East Side, an affluent neighborhood immediately to the south of East Harlem, are more than three times as likely to stock fresh fruit and veggies, low or fat-free milk, high-fiber bread, and diet soda than stores in East Harlem. Too many people struggle to afford their diabetes drugs, and so skip them or take only partial doses. Poor eating habits also play a huge role, at least with most of the people profiled in the piece.
Just how poorly some of the people interviewed ate--and sadly, continue to eat--after being diagnosed with diabetes, is astounding. A 57-year-old diabetic named Juan Concepcion told Kleinfeld:
"I'm trying to give up beer. I would drink at 7 at night until 3 in the morning, watched boxing and baseball, drinking beer. I drank 15 or 20 beers in a night."
Concepcion also reveals that his father was diabetic, and continued to "take sugar" and drink beer after his diagnosis. Eventually his father lost both legs to the disease, and died of it.
Another diabetic, Elsie Matos, told the reporter:
"Listen, if I want to eat a piece of cake, I'm going to eat it. No doctor can tell me what to eat. I'm going to eat it, because I'm hungry. We got too much to worry about. We got to worry about tomorrow. We got to worry about the rent. We got to worry about our jobs. I'm not going to worry about a piece of cake."