Sugar, honey ah, honey | Herald of the Deccan
I’m no fan of Archies’ bubble-gum pop song Sugar from 1969, but it’s a bit catchy and undeniably appropriate:
Ah, darling, darling
You are my candy girl
And you make me want you.
It is appropriate because I am a sugar drug addict, a junkie. I need it, whether it’s in the form of simple carbs, alcohol, or the sugary treats themselves. And I use the seemingly hyperbolic term “junkie” because it turns out it’s not hyperbolic at all! Recent studies on the impact of sugar on our brains suggest that its influence and addictive properties rival those of cocaine.
Speaking of cocaine (and sugar), in Sigmund Freud’s book Cocaine papers for over a century, he had already warned us about the neurological threat posed by sugar. Freud actually suggested that sugar, for him more dangerous than cocaine, was probably responsible for much of the neurosis he discerned in modern social life. He thought sugar drove us all crazy.
But we don’t need to give credit to a drunken misogynist who has never been able to cure any of his patients. Leave the neurological issues aside. The physiological damage that sugars cause us is unquestionable (I use the plural to take into account the fructose and glucose in which all of our sugars, carbohydrates and alcohols are broken down). The simplest example would be their role in catalyzing type II diabetes. And with India having the second highest number of patients with type II diabetes in the world and the highest number of cases of prediabetes, sugars are more than just fun, and even more than addictive. They could in fact turn out to be an existential threat.
Again, this is not hyperbolic. Look at the statistics. About 3% of all deaths in India are attributable to diabetes. That’s almost a million people a year. If you were to compare the numbers of deaths attributable to terrorism, it’s too tiny to care. And yet India has spent and continues to spend countless crores, it has changed long-standing legal regimes, curtailed citizens’ rights and freedoms, ushered in a regime of mass surveillance, brutally demonetized its currency, and much more. again in order to combat the security challenge ostensibly posed by terrorism. What has he done, however, to deal with the crisis posed by diabetes, both in terms of preventable deaths and the enormous financial burden for both the citizen and the state?
Some would say this is an unfair juxtaposition. One is about the sovereignty and integrity of the nation state, while the other is a public health issue. Fair enough. Take Covid then. Since hitting India, Covid has caused half as many deaths as diabetes in a single year. And again, India has spent countless crores, changed laws, shortened fees, increased surveillance, etc. What has he done, in comparison, for the public health crisis of diabetes?
Although it is a barely rivaled “epidemic”, the only national level strategy or system to treat, detect or prevent diabetes in India is the poorly funded and poorly funded National Cancer Prevention and Control Program. even more poorly administered, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS), a motley set of pilot programs, operating ad hoc and without urgency, innovation or vision, within the framework of the National Health Mission of the Ministry of Health. Indians with diabetes pay out of their own pockets five times the total NPDCCS budget for their treatment each year – so something is clearly wrong.
Changing our perspective from public health to public awareness, the way we gleefully gorge ourselves on simple carbohydrates, white rice, white flour, and other fiber-free favorites like juices, crisps and cookies, packaged foods loaded with sugar, as well as fried foods, sugar in our teas and sweets, alcoholic drinks, sweet cocktails, colas, etc., is indicative of total resignation on the part of our public authorities – when it comes to is sugar, while it is expensive and ends up killing, freedom seems reign supreme. The polar opposite of the position on terrorism, Covid and other priorities. Perhaps when the ailing population drops from 10% to 25% or more, as expected soon, strategic resources will finally be allocated to the epidemic.
Until then, we wait, and we sing with the Archies …
Pour some sugar on it, honey
Pour some sugar on it, baby
Make your life so sweet, yeah, yeah, yeah.
(Aakash Singh Rathore as Dr Jekyll is professor of philosophy, politics and law, author and editor of over 20 books and account, and as Mr Hyde one of the top Ironman triathletes in India)