The Angry Type 2 Diabetic: May 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Moldy Cupcake Awards: Artificial Sweetener Alarmist Crap, by WHO-TV Channel 13

Copyright © 2010 Julie Kin
/ Gleeful Things. All Rights Reserved.
Welcome to another edition of the Moldy Cupcake Awards.
The award we give out for excellence in communicating nonsense, lies, misinformation, and outright uninformed, alarmist drivel, about diabetes and related health informationfor the purposes of garnering ratings, by the mass media, and others.

This installment's winner is: WHO-TV Channel 13 News, Des Moines Iowa!

I'm not much of a TV viewer, these days, but I must confess: I had a little accident this week -- I accidentally spilled water on my laptop, so I had to spend a good day without the internet. What was left, but the TV? (Yes, I know... reading, walking, exercising, crafts, etc. lol) Anyway... after a year or so of not watching any TV, I was quickly reminded why I had given it up: gullibility, stupidity, emotional appeals, and alarmism for the sake of ratings. They sure know how to hook us in. 

So, here I was, taking a dose of mental junk food, when I saw a commercial for the local news regarding artificial sweeteners. In it, the anchors sounded the alarms of doubt... "are artificial sweeteners and low calorie foods safe for you, or are they just a sweet deception?"

Oh, there was no way I was going to miss that... and they did not disappoint -- by which I mean, they completely disappointed me, as I expected. I am always amused by how the media portray their stories on artificial sweeteners, and other controversial subjects. They violate every law of sound journalism: 
  •  You first portray anecdotal evidence, by someone that has really no proof of their claim, just a gut feeling;
  • Then you speak to expert sounding non-experts;
  • And finally, you have them make lofty claims, with absolutely NO scientific evidence or basis...
And there you go! A recipe for just about every "investigative" segment on the news, today. 

This 'investigative report' is no different. They start out with the story of Renee Chiaramonte, a woman who is a registered nurse, at one of our local hospitals. That, by default, would give people the idea that Renee has some 'authority' on what she says, because she's a nurse. In my experience as a diabetes advocate, assuming one has sound medical knowledge or health expertise by virtue of being a nurse, simply couldn't be farther from the truth. 

But I digress... We're left to ponder on the life of Renee, who was not feeling healthy, and felt like this was
likely due to poor diet; artificial sweetener abuse, to be exact. She claims she was consuming up to 500 artificial sweetener packets a month (besides countless diet sodas) and that she experienced weight gain, joint pain, and a torn tendon in her knee. These are some pretty hefty claims to make of artificial sweeteners. 

But it doesn't stop there... How dare these companies try to sell you artificial sweetener?!

They want to build a case of blame against artificial sweetener companies, so they interview a Marketing Professor at one of the local universities. "Oh, no, companies make you crave the sweet stuff by giving the boxes pretty colors, and putting them on the most accessible shelves! How dare they!" Yeah -- it's called being a company with a product, which you want to sell. Should they package it in corrugated boxes, written over with Sharpie marker? Please.

Then, for the clincher: A "medical" expert's opinion. Now, is this expert a registered dietitian? Is she an M.D.? Is she, perhaps, a food scientist? Maybe even a scientist with the FDA, or the Department of Health?  I would've even accepted a researching chemist. 

No... that would be too ideal. The woman in question, is "Dr." Ann Buenger -- a chiropractor. 

Listen here, fools at WHO-TV News Channel 13... 

A chiropractor is not a medical expert. In fact, they are not really doctors of anything, but of pseudo-scientific claims, and most of their claims and services are WOO. How dare you ask this woman's mere unscientific opinion on this subject (of which she is NOT an expert, by any means)? Let's limit her to such things as back adjustments, for crying out loud.

So, instead of interviewing an actual expert, they interview Mrs. Buenger (I refuse to call such a person a doctor) and she makes even more preposterous claims: 
  • Artificial sweeteners are stored in your fat;
  • They are all a "chemical," thus they are toxic to the body;
  • "Experts" say artificial sweeteners can trigger weight gain, migraines, depression, and cancer;
  • Consuming artificial sweeteners is like directly injecting them in your veins; and
  • 75% of your neurons have to die before all your symptoms of artificial sweetener consumption come out.
  • "Adverse symptoms" can last for several years.
I really miss the days when journalists were actual journalists, and did investigative work. NO ONE in their right mind would want to quote such a non-expert on such a subject. I wonder if all the other real experts simply told them there was nothing to discuss? No controversy? They had nothing to work with, and were grasping at straws. 

I sure would love to know to which so called studies and experts this woman was referring. Since she doesn't say, and even a cursory search on google doesn't yield any credible links (medicine journals, with findings, for one), I am left with assuming 99% of her claims came right out of her ass. 

You see, artificial sweeteners are not stored in fat; they do NOT affect your neurons in such a way that most of them have to die off, somehow, before you can feel better, nor do they trigger any of the symptoms mentioned above. And if something is toxic to us, just by virtue of it being a chemical, well lady... throw away ALL your medications, and you'd better hope you don't get any major illnesses. 

Aspartame, for example, has no more likelihood to induce headache in people who consume it, than a placebo; further studies of the association between aspartame and cancer found this association to be exclusive to rodent physiology, and not supported in humans; and any idiot who has any knowledge of the body's digestive process knows that drinking something is NOT the same as injecting it in one's veins... otherwise we'd drink insulin. DUH. 

Now there is some truth as to the likelihood of weight gain and usage of artificial sweeteners, but it is not due to artificial sweetener 'storage' in adipose tissues. 

You see... the desire to eat is driven by the same reward-circuitry we have in our brains for other pleasurable activities, such as sex, and drugs (hot damn!) When we consume sweet foods in particular, they reward our pleasure senses, but they also trigger satiety mechanisms which tell our bodies we have had enough. Since artificial sweeteners do not possess any caloric content, they thus trigger those 'hedonistic' pleasure neuronal signals, but do not seem to trigger satiety signals. The hypothesis is that a person can end up over-craving, and overeating, or looking for more food, because they didn't feel 'satisfied.' Also, if one abuses sweet foods, one trains one's palate to prefer such sweet foods, over other foods, even craving them. The studies for these behaviors are not, by any means, definitive; they are often large population studies, from the 1980s, over a 7-8 year period. Food attitudes, and diet notions can change a lot in such a period... especially in the 80s, when people would often eat a slice a cake with a diet Coke, and think they were doing well; or consume honey, in place of sugar, and think they were cutting out problems. 

This does not, by any means, mean that consumption of artificial sweeteners immediately leads to weight gain, on its own. It does not. If one is aware of one's eating, has a well balanced diet, and consumes enough water through the day, there really should be no problems. One of the prime examples of how artificial sweeteners do not lead to weight gain are the foolish anchors of this story, themselves, which at the end of the story (while not shown on this clip) were freaking out about all the foods they had consumed through the day, or earlier in the week -- while being the picture of fitness. 

Interestingly enough, just to show HOW psychological this woman's perceived malaise was, from her artificial sweeteners, she claims she now consumes Stevia (by way of Truvia), which is "the only healthy alternative, right now." They assume this because Stevia is naturally derived... but in fact, Stevia is no different in way of 'anecdotal' symptoms expressed by consumers -- as well as, also, not having caloric content. If it's sweet, and it has no caloric content, it should behave in the same way as the other sweeteners when it comes to partial activation of food reward pathways. 

One is left to ponder upon the other ways in which this woman was possibly not taking care of herself: not enough sleep, poor diet (hence a lack of vitamins), and dehydration. If she has any history of carpal tunnel, lack of enough Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin B-12 can seriously affect her joint health. It could have also been the result of poor hydration, if she was simply not having enough water (just chugging diet sodas), and was retaining a massive amount of water weight from dehydration (a safety mechanism), as well as causing her joint pain, and even muscle cramps, and torn tendons, in the presence of high activity (such as a 12 hour work day). These are all well known side effects of dehydration.  

This was, simply, an inexcusable piece of irresponsible journalism, WHO-TV. A lot of people greatly depend on artificial sweeteners -- many with various illnesses they need to manage, such as diabetes. We live with enough guilt, as it is, without uneducated lay people giving us crap over a 'piece' they saw on your channel. When you create such poorly researched segments, what you do is push people into the arms of conspiracy theorists, scammers, and quacks, claiming they have the latest and best in 'natural' medicine, or a quick fix for their problems. Not to mention, WHO-TV, that you slander an industry. Sweeteners are used in all kinds of things, from toothpaste, to Lean Pockets. 

This woman was simply living a poor lifestyle, and instead of taking responsibility, decided to blame the artificial sweeteners. And instead of researching, you went with questionable sources. The worst part is that you brought NO balance to your piece, only adding a lame 'Editor's Note' at the end of your hard-to-find written piece, with 'differing opinions.' WHO-TV, these aren't simply 'opinions.' You can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own FACTS, and then call those opinions. SHAME ON YOU! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Seasons of Diabetes

I wrote this post last fall -- and left it to 'simmer' under my drafts, until I felt I could more fully, and more maturely, develop it. 

It's cool outside. The air is crisp, and clean; tinged with so much moisture that I can feel its mist on my cheeks. Wondering home after work, in the early afternoon, gives me pause. The crunching leaves underneath my feet, the neon yellow colors, and the scent of trampled ginkgo biloba wakes me right up. Ginkgo biloba is pungent, that's for sure; it's scent is something between icky bodily functions, and rotting flesh.

No matter though. The heavy atmosphere begins to release a mild rain... and though there's no umbrella and it's quite cool outside, I find myself embracing the very awareness of being alive that the new season brings upon my senses.

I realize, suddenly, that I love Fall. But then, don't I also hate it sometimes? I know I've told myself that before... Why is that?

[Walking gives one much time for thought. Deep thoughts by Jack Handy kind of thoughts, I guess. (If you hate walking for the exercise, well, at least love it for the thinking.)]

So... what is it that I love about Fall, or any season, anyway? The answer is both obvious, and not so obvious; one of those much clich├ęd "Aha!" Oprah kind of moments. I love seasons because of their promise of RELIEF.

This brief moment of relief brings my soul much healing from the previous season; a much needed break from the burden of dealing with whatever else was before. Yes, relief. You see, I start out loving a season, and then it slowly becomes annoying to me, and outright burdensome... I then get sick of it, or even depressed from it. I get sick and tired of the stupid season! It seems long, and never ending... and there's only so much of -20°F or 100°F (and everything in between) one can tolerate. So, every new season brings me relief from the previous season. It brings me a much welcome change of pace. It brings me an opportunity to love life again. To smile... to take in the wonder of how much nature can change from one moment, to the next.

And it's much the same with diabetes, and our "seasons" of self care, isn't it? We make up our minds to begin caring for ourselves, anew, and start out with the joyful promise of good things to come... and then we get sick of it. We seem to perpetually live in one season, and one season only -- often with little flexibility with our routines; we impose the new "season" on ourselves --with strong militance -- and then we burn out. Then after a little while, we start yet another season, but with the mindset of 'rectifying the previous bad behaviors.'

But, should we change things before our "season" changes us into something we don't want? Maybe we ought to begin a new season simply pondering what lead to the 'bad behaviors' in the first place... I know I'm guilty of it, particularly with my routines. With it's dietary calculations, carbohydrate juggling, testing, supplements, medication management, exercise routines, and doctors appointments -- diabetes can be one long, and boring, and often, depressing season. Some people thrive in that kind of season, just like some love perpetual sunny days... but once in a while, my soul needs a little rain.

So, how do we avoid this cycle? What can we do so that we don't get stuck being miserable, in a crappy season, and completely giving up on diabetes management, over and over again? Well, it's obvious that we're creatures of spontaneity -- we need, and crave change, so wherever we can, we must allow ourselves some flexibility. With this in mind, we must take a moment to consider...

a.) Which things are negotiable; and
b.) Which things are not negotiable.

And we must be realistic. We need to sit down with ourselves, and realize that we simply cannot put everything in the "not negotiable" camp. For example -- as much as I, in principle, would love to eat nothing but eggs, every morning, so that I have the best blood glucose numbers -- I know that I am quite sick of eggs. I don't want eggs all the time; I don't want flax seed meal muffins, I don't want weird food. I want to eat a chicken soft taco, with lots pico de gallo, lettuce, and a little hot sauce. It's about 35-40 carbs. IT'S FINE. My morning blood sugars aren't below 100, but quite frankly, they don't go over 150, either... and I'm okay with that.

Will I have a bunch of cereal, of any kind, for breakfast? No. Cereal is not negotiable for me, and not even because of the spike. It's just not satisfying to me -- psychologically, it doesn't seem like I've eaten anything, and physically, it just doesn't fill me up. It makes me need more food, and I'm not much of a pleasant morning person to be going around, making extra things. I tend to like regular meals at that hour, OR, a light snack and a brunch later on. If we think about it, most breakfast foods are just an excuse to eat desserts in the morning, anyway. So... I'm not going to kill myself with eggs, nor cereals, nor weird substitutes.

Now, in my desire to eat with awareness, what I seek to avoid is binging; that is not negotiable. (As non-negotiable as completely giving up testing.) Overeating may happen from time to time, as we learn our limits -- but binging is not negotiable. So, what does my body want to eat, intuitively, the most? These days, my body wants and craves veggies the most. Non-starchy veggies, and lean proteins. Sometimes, though, I might crave a bit of creamy tomato soup, with a small portion of gnocchi in that soup -- and I can have that. I need to recognize, though, that I will NOT and CANNOT live forever on just veggies, and just protein. That the occasional starch and/or grain is okay -- even if it's not 'whole.' I am perfectly aware that this is not deadly, that it is not untenable, and that some people make the change, without issue -- but if I did this, I know I would soon fail.  I am not a person, psychologically, to endure such a restriction -- to endure deprivation and strict eating rules. I do eat low carb most every day -- but every once in a while, I am OKAY with my blood sugar not being perfectly below 120 after every meal. If it's below 160, sometimes, it'll do. Yes -- it'll do. So... I tend to cycle some days when I eat very low carb, with some when I eat moderately low carb, and with some when I allow myself a treat. Studies have shown that an intermittent low carb diet is still much better at reducing insulin levels in one's blood, than a Mediterranean diet (or standard dieting). We're not speaking of insane changes, here... It's not like I'm going to sit out in the rain all day, because I got tired of sunny days. (No, no... sorry, there's not going to be an "all brownie day." Put down the icing.) But maybe one or two days of splashing in some puddles might do me some good. After all, who wants to go to a favorite restaurant and ALWAYS have to stick to the same food option?

No one. They'd soon fail. So then, we must learn to be realistic, and keep a balance between our own desires for freedom, spontaneity and change -- and our limitations.

Another change in season which we may consider, is simply changing how we view the way a meal affects us. Not every meal is going to be perfectly within blood glucose goals -- but perhaps the bigger question should be: "how well do I feel when I eat it?" Quite frankly, I have to limit heavy breakfasts -- proteins with too much fat, or calories, will make me feel bogged down and sick -- even if they give me great numbers. Most of the time, I cannot handle a great work day, if I'm bogged down in a very heavy breakfast. I also can't eat very bitter or tart foods at that hour, like yogurt, or grapefruit. Hey, I admire the people who eat that every day, and can get away with it -- but it seems to be unsatisfying to me, both physically, and emotionally. On the other hand, a home made tomato soup, with lots of veggies, and a bit of gnocchi -- while giving me blood glucose levels sometimes in the 160s -- make me happy, joyful, and healthy. And the highs do not last very long. Since I've started eating more like this, I've also had better fasting numbers in the mornings -- usually in the 80s.

But perhaps, by far -- one of the things we ought to consider when managing our 'seasons' with diabetes, is to enlist the help of our friends and family. If one has a "Type 3" person enlisted in one's care, one should use this moment now to plan out a 'new season' with them. That could be as simple as choosing one or two weekends a month, where they are the person who makes meals, so that you don't have to be the main meal maker ALL the time. Or, it could be the other way around... maybe we can be the main meal maker, so that we give one's Type 3 a break from having to make our meals all the time. Learning to plan, and prepare, diabetes-healthy meals can be a lot of fun, sometimes.

What concessions are we willing to give ourselves in order to learn why the caged bird sings? Diabetes is a steady stream of seasons; it's best to let ourselves change and flow with the wisdom they bring. I'm only 36, and I have a good 30+ more years with this disease, so I have to learn to run a good race... and be consistent at it. This, for someone like me, is a HUGE challenge... and though I may seem like I have it all together, believe me, I'm still, very much, a work in progress.

I never have quite the same consistent answers about my eating habits, or exercise routine... because well, there is no consistent answer. I simply try to do whatever makes me feel healthy, so long as Mr. Meter approves... and I'm not sick of it. Mr. Meter, though, is going to have to learn to be a bit more flexible, sometimes. Or he'll end up decorating my wall. As you can see by this 14 day average, he can be a real drill Sargent, sometimes... even with those silly, googly eyes.

In order to survive, we need to change our seasons. We need to redecorate, to transform, to change the same four 'diabetes walls' we stare at, every day... because we need RELIEF. 

Sometimes, our souls just need a little rain.