Monday, April 7, 2008

A seldom considered consequence of immigration

In memory of Mario Sotelo

How many Oreos can you eat?

The New York Times published an article "Does this goo make you groan" on July 2, 2006 in which it quotes a Harvard scientist:
''There's no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity,'' said Dr. Walter Willett, the chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health"

maybe the title of the NYT article should be "Does this misinformation make you groan?"

We often think of how our lives (those of us who are not immigrants) have changed because of immigration. Yes, our cities and schools have changed. There are bilingual signs everywhere. Salsa is now more popular than catsup.

Even so, we rarely think of what happens to people who immigrate to the United States. While we were at the funeral of yet another Latino who died of complications of diabetes - Juli mentioned to me that she never heard of diabetes when she lived in Mexico.

Diabetes is an AMERICAN disease. It seems strikingly perverse when health professionals point out that Latinos and African Americans are disproportionately diagnosed with diabetes. They say this without explanation. Is it fair for to be labeled with an illness that is actually more white American than apple pie?

There is a term thrown around by health researches called the "Hispanic Paradox" -- I don't know why people would be surprised that when people from Mexico first immigrate here they are healthier (yes, in better shape) than our middle class white American. Just the fact that it is called a "paradox" explains that immigrants who lived in poverty in their home country could actually be healthier. How is this possible without Centrum, meat everyday, nutritionally balanced diets, and the best health care service in the world?

The answer is simple: when immigrants still lived in Mexico, they rarely, if ever ate at a McDonalds (I recommend the film "Super-Sized Me" for those who doubt) or a Burger King, or a Jack in the Box. The beans and tortillas they made at home did not have high fructose corn syrup, one of the big culprits in the development of diabetes.

While Latino immigrants surprise researchers with their health and great physical condition, they again surprise them when long term studies are done, and it is found that immigrants quickly take on the eating habits and therefore diseases of our average American.

It is the food. This wonderful country that offers everything, where a person (if documented) can go from rags to riches, get a great education, and complain about the president without going to jail - is killing us with food, specifically American food - hamburgers, fries, box cereals, 100% fruit juice full of high fructose corn syrup, Jack in the Box Tacos, Dominoes Pizza, Oreo cookies, Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Fanta Orange, and many more of the wonderful things we eat everyday.

Diabetes is ravaging the Latino community in the United States.


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