Does Chinese Diabetes Epidemic Holds Seeds of Change?

Need some motivation to begin growing and changing your taste buds?

Two recent posts have explained how our taste buds are like gatekeepers between our good eating intentions and the hand that holds the fork.  If these gatekeepers can be recruited as allies, they can be a huge help on the healthy eating journey.  While that’s easy enough to understand, you may need a little motivation to begin training your taste buds for helpful service.  In this respect, consider the plight of the poor Chinese.

For years, they have toiled to catch up to the West in terms of material wealth.  Now they find themselves plagued by the same chronic diseases that are afflicting Western populations.  A recent report disclosed an alarming increase in diabetes among the Chinese population with 10 percent already afflicted and another 16 percent are on the verge of developing it—figures that are equal to or surpass U.S. and other western nations.  Some kind of “progress!”

The conditions that led to this unfortunate calamity sound ominously familiar:

Greater wealth has led to sweeping diet changes, including eating heavily salted foods, fatty meats and sugary snacks – boosting obesity rates, a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. * * * ‘As people eat more high-calorie and processed foods combined with less exercise, we see an increase of diabetes patients,’ said Huang Jun, a cardiovascular professor at the Jiangsu People’s Hospital in Nanjing.*

What does this have to do with those of us an ocean away?  Sometimes, it’s hard to see the quagmire you’re sinking into because it’s grown so big you mistake it for the normal landscape.  What’s happening in China is the same thing that has been happening in our country for years, but so slowly that the enormity of the situation doesn’t fully register.   Maybe, watching the dietary devastation taking place in another country can help us see our own predicament more clearly—and provide us the necessary motivation to do something about it!

Speaking from the winning side of the taste bud battle (pretty much, at least) I can sound a warning that the problem foods at issue are dangerous on several levels.  Not only do these “heavily salted foods, fatty meats and sugary snacks” make our taste buds lazy and sedentary.  They are also positively addictive and warp our taste buds, to the point where we can no longer appreciate the incredible flavors of real foods in their natural states.

So be prepared to get into the trenches as you go to battle in the taste bud war.  Give things time, be persistent, and most importantly, invest the effort to prepare meals that are delightfully delectable.  After just a little time tasting the vibrant flavors of real foods, you may be surprised to see your taste buds give up the fight and voluntarily surrender!

Don’t feel like you’re alone on the taste bud battlefield.  We’re here to help you make vegetable-rich, whole grain, wholesome meals that are irresistible.  Visit Vegetable A Month, the Definitive Guide to a Delicious Vegetable Life.

* “China Faces Diabetes Epidemic,” March 24, 2010, CBS News World

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