Friday, September 14, 2012

Alzheimer's Me

That's not cauliflower...

George Monbiot has brought to our attention that there seems to be a strong link between "junk food" consumption and Alzheimer's--now in the process of being renamed type 3 diabetes.
Even if you can detach yourself from the suffering caused by diseases arising from bad diets, you will carry the cost, as a growing proportion of the health budget will be used to address them. The cost – measured in both human suffering and money – could be far greater than we imagined. A large body of evidence now suggests that Alzheimer's is primarily a metabolic disease. Some scientists have gone so far as to rename it: they call it type 3 diabetes.
New Scientist carried this story on its cover on 1 September; since then I've been sitting in the library, trying to discover whether it stands up. I've now read dozens of papers on the subject, testing my cognitive powers to the limit as I've tried to get to grips with brain chemistry. Though the story is by no means complete, the evidence so far is compelling.
About 35 million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease worldwide; current projections, based on the rate at which the population ages, suggest that this will rise to 100 million by 2050. But if, as many scientists now believe, it is caused largely by the brain's impaired response to insulin, the numbers could rise much further. In the United States, the percentage of the population with type 2 diabetes, which is strongly linked to obesity, has almost trebled in 30 years. If Alzheimer's, or "type 3 diabetes", goes the same way, the potential for human suffering is incalculable.
This is not about obesity, as such. This is about the ways in which we process our food.  The food we eat has been produced by, as George Monbiot says, "A scarcely regulated food industry [which] can engineer its products – loading them with fat, salt, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – to bypass the neurological signals that would otherwise prompt people to stop eating." How are we supposed to fight that? It takes a committed government intervention to ensure that, even if it does no real good, at least our food system does no harm. Yet we have a Prime Minister in Canada who is religiously committed to removing all regulation on business.
We can resist as individuals, but we are caring for the results as a society. It would seem, therefore, that we could insist, as a society, that first we do no harm. And the funny thing is, if we did brign about the revolution in our food supply that we so desperately need, it would also serve to democratise the wealth in our food system as well. More producers sharing the pot, well, that's something we can't even imagine in Harper's Canada.
BTW, a fully referenced version of George Monbiot's The Mind Theives can be found here.

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