With World Diabetes Day coming up on November 14th, it’s the perfect time to talk about the rising (yet reversible) cost of diabetes. The CDC recently reported that 30 million people have diabetes, with 90 percent living with Type 2 diabetes. Last year, the cost of treating Type 2 diabetes and related illnesses cost more than $350 billion and that number is expected to reach more than $600 billion in the next five years. In addition, 84 percent of healthcare costs in the U.S. are attributable to chronic diseases with Type 2 diabetes at the top of the list.
What has lead to this national health crisis? Well, our sedentary lifestyles have increased (there’s too much Netflix and chilling, and not enough walking, biking and hiking). There’s confusion over food choices and fast food and processed foods make it far too convenient to chow down on sugar- and empty-calorie-laden “convenient” meals instead of planning meals and cooking at home. And doctors continue to push pills over encouraging patients to make healthy lifestyle choices.
But there is good news. A low carb diet has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing and controlling diabetes, and Atkins is on the forefront of this movement. In the article, “Reversing the Cost of Diabetes to Drive Significant Savings and More Importantly, Lives”*, published in the Food & Nutrition Journal, author Paul Keckley, Ph.D., a healthcare policy expert, says that if one-fifth of the 30 million Type 2 sufferers in the U.S. used dietary changes to reduce HbA1c levels (average blood glucose levels over the past two to three months) by one percentage point, they would not only reverse their diabetes, but the healthcare system could save at least $10 billion annually and outcomes would improve measurably.
It sounds simple, but in order to promote a nutrition-based strategy for the growing diabetes debacle, we need the support of policy makers and public health experts to toss out the “one-size-fits-all” approach and focus on customized nutritional solutions.
According to Paul Keckley, here’s how we need to start taking control of this costly health crisis:
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines should give nutrition recommendations to address this chronic disease as well as the general population instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition.
A major public education campaign can educate consumers about nutrition therapies and healthy choices and help them avoid misleading marketing and health advice.
Updating of diagnostic screening measures used by primary care clinicians, retail clinics and other primary care venues to diagnose pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Improvements in medical education to emphasize nutrition therapies.
Inclusion of explicit nutrition therapy outcomes in alternative payment programs including The Medicare Shared Savings Program and others.
Appointment of a blue-ribbon commission on nutrition therapy to modernize policies, regulations and food supply chain considerations.
This year on World Diabetes Day, let’s hope we can begin to make progress on championing the efforts to control this disease.
*Note: Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. commissioned this article in Food & Nutrition, but Atkins did not participate in the study design, data collection, analysis or manuscript preparation.