Last Sunday's new york times magazine's cover story, unhappy meals by micheal pollan, was really interesting. Beautifully written and smartly constructed, the article unteases the complex subject of modern nutritional politics, policy and process. I was struck with how a great writer can make even the most mundane subject fascinating and understandable. This article is noteworthy in its depth and scope on the subject of modern nutrition and how, the author argues, that in the effort to solve the problems of the western diet, it's actually made them worse. He sites many times throughout the article, how our diet is contributing to a variety of dangerous health issues. At the very least, even if one doesn't agree with everything he posits, it's a great read. It certainly has made me rethink some of my food choices long after I'd put the magazine aside.
So it's obvious I liked the article, right? Right, but. I have to admit, there's one thing he did throughout the article, that just keeps bugging me. At times he would say that the western diet has contributed to the rise of type 2 diabetes and at times, he'd just say diabetes. Which is just wrong, when talking about type 1 diabetes. Hello, it's an autoimmune disease who's onset is not related to diet! An important detail and distinction, given the thrust of the article, I'd say. Additionally, in the following passage, the differences between the two types of diabetes seem to get more blurry: "Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery." Insulin pumps for type 2 diabetes? I know there are a few people with type 2 diabetes who do wear the pump but it's my understanding that the vast majority of people on insulin pumps are type 1 diabetics. Which means that the author kind of got it wrong, or at the very least, didn't take the opportunity to clarify. To me this passage implies that the insulin pump was designed to address the type of diabetes he's been refering to throughout the article, where diet contributes to it's onset (ie. type 2 diabetes), when in fact, it was designed to address type 1 diabetes (as in the type of diabetes where diet does not contribute to onset). Which means the author either doesn't get the distinctions between the two types of diabetes, or he's blurring the lines between them to make a point. Neither is good, in my mind.
As a type 1 diabetic, I've lost count of the times I've had to explain that no, "I didn't eat a lot of sugar as a child", or no, "my diabetes can't be controlled with just diet or exercise". Diabetes is already confusing enough to the general public, so it bums me out that a newspaper of such distinction and author of such skill, didn't take the opportunity to bring clarity the subject. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but hell, it doesn't seem that hard to pay attention to a detail as important as the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, especially given the thoroughness and attention to detail in the rest of the article.