Lou came into the office. Clearly, his program had gone sour.
Lou had initially obtained wonderful control over his heart scan score of 1114, having reversed modestly in his first three years of effort through correction of his multiple causes (including low HDL, severe small LDL, Lp(a), and a diabetic tendency).
But Lou now came into the office red-faced and sporting a big bulging abdomen. Blood sugar? Now in the overtly diabetic range. Lou said that his primary care doctor had suggested that he start on three new medications (glucophage, injectable Byetta, and Actos) to control his blood sugar. His doctor also told him to increase his intake of fibers by eating more “healthy” breakfast cereals like Cheerios.
Lou had apparently done just that (added “healthy” fiber-rich foods) even before his doctor had suggested it. (Lou failed to remember the several conversations we’d had about healthy eating.) Unfortunately, Lou also failed to connect his increased intake of “healthy fiber-rich foods” and his growing abdominal girth (his “wheat belly“).
Here’s the dirty little secret: Much of the world wants you to be diabetic. It is the health gold rush of this century. “Go West, young man!”
The pharmaceutical industry–Diabetes is a booming growth industry, a source of tens of billions of dollars of revenue, poised for enormous growth as the population ages and gets fatter. It is common for a newly-diagnosed diabetic to be given new prescriptions for two or three drugs with a monthly cost of $300. Of course, the chronic nature of the disease make this far more profitable than, say, a two week course of antibiotics. Presently, 70 new drugs are under development.
Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk reported a 25% increase in revenues in 2007 from diabetic agents in the North American market, along with near $2 billion increase in profit for the year. Merck’s recently-released DPP-4 inhibitor, Januvia, has already sold $668 million in 2007 and is growing rapidly.
The medical device and supply industry. Take a look at the Medtronic quarterly earnings report, detailing the breakdown of their record-setting quarterly revenue of $3.7 billion:
Diabetes revenue of $269 million grew 12 percent driven by sales
of consumables, the accessories required by insulin pump users, and
continuous glucose monitoring products. Revenue from international
sales grew 31 percent over the same quarter last year.
That’s what I call a growth industry.
The processed food industry. The food industry is as big or bigger than the drug industry. ADM, Kraft, General Mills all have annual revenues in the $12-50 billion range. There are plenty of others.
When we’re told, for instance, that Cheerios reduces cholesterol, we’re not told that it skyrockets blood sugar or triggers small LDL. When we’re sold whole wheat crackers, Cocoa Puffs (which the American Heart Asscociation says is heart-healthy), or granola bars, hunger is stimulated, impulse to eat more grows, blood sugar escalates, we get fat, we get diabetic. It’s a simple formula.
So be aware that there is little incentive among corporate giants in the food, medical device, or drug industries to encourage behaviors that decrease the incidence of diabetes. In fact, there is enormous financial incentive to make sure that diabetes continues to grow at the startling rate it has over the last decade.
To be sure, the drug and medical device industry will also develop better tools to deal with diabetes and its complications. But the very best way to deal with diabetes is to not develop it in the first place.
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