Diabetes, the other pandemic we have to talk about

Did you know that 75 people enter the operating room daily and leave without a limb? And that a large part of these amputations are caused by diabetes? And that diabetes affects more than 10% of the population of Mexico? And that there are 12 million Mexican men and women who suffer from this disease and do not know it?

The statistics of the National Health and Nutrition Survey 2018-2019 are terrifying. Inegi and the National Institute of Public Health estimate that there are 20 million with diabetes mellitus, that silent disease with fatal consequences that is even considered by the World Health Organization as “the pandemic of the 21st century.”

The worst (or the best, it depends on the angle at which it is viewed) is that it is a preventable disease. As we know, poor eating habits, ultra-processed foods with immense caloric loads and high rates of obesity are determining factors for Mexico to be one of the countries with the highest amount of diabetes.

November 14 was World Diabetes Day and that is why it seems urgent to point out that public health is everyone’s responsibility, especially those who are dedicated to the food industry. We cannot continue to tolerate foods and drinks that, without fear of exaggeration, are poison to the body. The new labeling will help, but I’m afraid there is still a lot of work to do. Making efforts by brands to reduce the caloric loads of their products can be a good start.

I understand that the issue is complex and that the high sugar content in countless products is a business that has changed the health of entire societies. It is worth reading, by the way, “Mala leche”, by Soledad Barruti, a book that helps to understand who is behind all this negotiation of calories and junk food, and that in passing explains why it is so dangerous to consume products that in the supermarket are sold as “natural” or even “light”.

It is essential to understand that diabetes is a disease that produces disability. The visual is one of them. But the one that is talked about much less is that of diabetic foot amputations. Because what begins as a scratch or a badly cut nail ends in an amputation. The German organization Ottobock estimates that 8 out of 10 lower limb amputations are due to a poorly cared for diabetic foot.

“National statistics indicate that there was a significant increase in the prevalence of ulcers and amputations, which are the main causes of hospitalization among people with diabetes,” says Héctor Infanzón, nutritionist and educator at the Mexican Diabetes Federation.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, diabetes is the second cause of death in the country, only after cardiovascular diseases. Inegi estimates that 15.7% of deaths due to health problems are due to consequences derived from this disease.

It is no accident that the most uneven regions are the worst hit by diabetes. Good eating habits can only be a reality in societies with access to education and fair wages. As long as inequality is not addressed, diabetes will remain a serious problem with disastrous consequences, such as amputations, kidney failure, blindness or death.

It is essential that the private initiative assume a real commitment to feeding the population. There are several paths that can be followed; I’ll talk about them in the next spaces.