Diabetes: What Is And Is Not Cool About Candy Bars

I posted something on Facebook that obviously got under some peoples skin…

So... I had a moment of irony while checking out at the grocery.  A fundraiser box of chocolate bars for a charity, sitting next to the card swiper.  A charity, I myself have helped promote, and believe in.  Lots and lots of groups use various means and schemes to help raise funds and awareness for their particular cause and who doesn’t like a good candy bar?.  My sense of irony comes in surrounding  what i perceive as a disconnect between the cause being supported and the promotion being used.   The candy bar was in return for supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research foundation. Oh my!

A few things to insert at this point.  I am a type 1 diabetic.  I was diagnosed at the age of 30, and have managed my condition for 15 years,   I also spent my early formative years helping guide and care for my diabetic mother and grandmother eventually taking my grandmother to weekly dialysis as her kidneys failed. As a professional Chef I have for the past 8 years developed a restaurant concept the approaches “Food as Medicine” and I am  networked into the health and wellness community.  We provide safe meals for a broad selection of Auto-Immune diets.   I have taught courses on healthy cooking and nutrition.  I also drink beer and tend to eat way too much snack food.   I am not perfect in monitoring my glucose levels, and honestly sometimes forget if I have injected my nightly medication.  With all that, I feel I am allowed to find the use of candy bars to support a diabetes charity quite ironic.  Because it is!

Diabetes.  Two types; both poorly explained.  The similarity is; Insulin and/or the pancreas cannot do their job.  To clarify; the body needs fuel, the fuel we use is glucose a single monosaccharide (more on that later).  Almost every food we eat contains some form of carbohydrate, however the majority is coming from what we refer to as carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, grains, root vegetables, etc.. In nature we see these carbohydrates as poly- or disaccharides (meaning they are not single little units).  When we eat, our body, through the magic of digestion, breaks down these bigger units into those monosaccharides, the one we want is glucose!  Once we have glucose by itself and our “food” enters our small intestine we begin to absorb int into our bloodstream.  Think adding lots of sugar to water (which is really close to what is happening), the more sugar the thicker, more syrup the blood gets.  Whoa!!!! the body does not like that!   We need our blood to flow smoothly it does a lot for us!  Oxygen, waster removal,  temperature control, etc.. Now remember we want this glucose, it is our fuel, allowing us to due everything we do, however the cells of our body do not have an open door policy, there is a lot of stuff they don’t want in.  Each little cell of our body is its own little machine, it needs to take fuel in and exhaust the bad stuff.  And to get glucose into the cell to be used we have insulin. The body recognizes the glucose in the blood, this triggers the pancreas to release the hormone insulin.  Insulin attaches to each glucose and is then able to be used.  However,  and there is always a however in life, the pancreas can only do so much. Sometimes he fails utterly. 

The majority of Diabetics are “type 2” which tends to show up in adults who exhibit obesity, poor eating habits, and a sedentary lifestyle. It usually is a result of either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the body being resistant to it.  This form diabetes can be controlled by diet, my dear diabetic mother, went decades controlling her type two insulin resistance by diet alone.  I have seen many others similarly change their lifestyle and health.  It is not easy and takes lots of sacrifice bit it sure beats the alternative; which is death (slow and debilitating in case you didn’t know).  One of the biggest challenges for Type 2 people is overcoming the massive reliance our culture has on complex, dense carbohydrates.  refined flour, potato, corn, and sugar (i.e. candy bars).  These carbohydrates are increasingly more refined (easier to digest) and hit the blood stream, not in a slow trickle, but in an explosive BAM!  This leads to equally loud response from the pancreas.  Think of your car, if instead of slowly accelerating and braking, you stomped on and off the gas.  At some point you’re going to break down, or at best, your performance will diminish.  This is in essence type 2 diabetes, 

Now the candy bars where a promotion for Type 1 Diabetics, back in the day referred to as “Juvenile Diabetes” because it tends to show up earlier in life versus Type 2 (see above).   However Type 1 diabetics can be any age and it can manifest at any age (just like me!).  The JDRF tends to focus on the youth aspect and has a pretty good outreach.  For people who don’t get the distinction they assume “Juvenile Diabetes” is a young persons thing.  The “condition” or disease is actually an Auto-immune disorder.  I know!  what the heck does that mean?  And why if the are different are the called the same thing?  I really don’t know.  As far as I can see it is mostly because symptoms and indicators (elevated blood sugar level) are a common issue.  The difference in conditions is very stark.  Whereas Type 2 has some controllability without medication, Type 1 are 100% dependent on medicine. The pancreas does not work!  Well it kinda works, your body just attacks the cells that produce insulin (the auto-immune response).  It’s a weird twist of the body doing what it is suppose to do and fighting off foreign objects, such as virus and bacteria, but the wires got crossed and it is recognizing insulin as unwanted. As of now there is no known cause or cure.  

But back to the candy bars. No, eating candy does not “cause” Type 1 diabetes. Technically I can eat anything and everything I want (please recall I am Type 1).  But there are some basic truths that need to be admitted.  Spiking blood sugar is not healthy.  Relying on proper dosage and glucose monitoring can be challenging.  I’m not even going to get into cost of insulin, cost of testing, inaccurate glucose meters, the rise of insulin resistance, associated heart disease, neuropathy, iron anemia, kidney damage, eye damage, osteoporosis, skin ailments, and heart disease, all of which are BIG issues for long term diabetic care.  And while there is a very distinct difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, they have been linked together in common usage and do share an obligation to appropriately raise awareness.  A candy bar is NOT a proper ambassador for the cause. 

Gregory Owens