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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Diabetes and the Curse of the Sweet Tooth*

Copyright 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only
*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat
January 14, 2013
as "Sweet Offerings Sour Dining Experience"
We're all familiar with the scenario. We've just finished a sumptuous dinner, three courses of artistry and flavor that has filled us to the point that some are surreptitiously loosening their belt.  We are sure that no room remains in the stomach.  We may not have to eat again for two days.
Then a shiny silver cart is rolled up to the table.  Across it's top are arrayed a dozen or so plates and bowls containing things like cake, fudge, ice cream, or any one of a hundred other temptations.  Suddenly, we find there is room after all.
But not for all of us. 
For those afflicted with Diabetes, we have to turn away, ignore the plaintive cries of our sweet tooth and decline the offering.  We can't help but feel deprived, not of the food itself, but the pure pleasure of sweetness on the tongue.
Diabetes is a growing problem  In the United States. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 25.8 million people have the disease, a figure that includes nearly 8 million undiagnosed cases.  That's about 8 percent of the population, but there are also some 80 million who are termed pre-diabetic, whose blood sugar counts are high but don't yet exceed the gateway count of 120.  Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that 366 milllion are afflicted, a figure that is expected to reach 552 million by 2030.
Fortuately, it is a manageable disease for most, although the long term prognoses are grim.  These include neuropathy, blindness, dementia, and loss of blood flow to the extremities requiring amputation of the feet and hands.  Therefore it is important that people, especially those whose family history includes diabetes, manage their sugar intake.
For those of us already diagnosed, it becomes a constant conflict between the desire for sweets and a strong memory of how ill we feel after indulging.  At home, I keep a container of sugar free pudding in the fridge and that's usually enough to satisfy those cravings.  But on those occasions when we eat out, I get frustrated when I look at the dessert menu and don't see a single sugar free sweet.  Now, I'm not a marketing expert, but it would seem to me that a restaurant chain might look at the 105 million diabetic and pre-diabtic restaurant patrons and see an opportunity.
Now understand the sugar free is not fat free, and just because a dish has no sugar in it won't take away any of the calories.  This is important, because not everyone understands the distinction.  Control of diabetes is not only dependent on restricting sugar intake, but caloric intake as well, since there is also a well-understood connection between obesity and diabetes.
I'm not looking for an artistic brownie swimming in hot fudge and topped with whipped cream, mind you.  I'd be happy with a couple of scoops of sugar-free ice cream to finish off a meal.  Just enough to sate the sweetness devil.  If a chef wanted to get more creative, just access the Web.  A Google search on "diabetic dessert recipes" turned up over two million results.  Surely that's enough possibilities to include one or two items on a given menu.
And, by the way, if you advertised that you had desserts tailored to the needs of 105 million Americans, I wonder how many of them might find their way to your tables.
I'm not necessarily chipping my gums here. I know that if one is not living with diabetes on a daily basis, it's an easy thing to ignore or discount. But the problem isn't going away; it will continue to get worse. 
If you're a chef, or a restaurant manager, or chain owner, I’m just asking you to think about it. Try test marketing a few items and see what the response is. 
It would be the sweetest thing you could do.
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