Message delivered to most affected population through Black church
Dr. Steve Tuschman describes what is going on in the U.S. as it relates to diabetes and obesity as an epidemic. He describes what is going on in the African American community surrounding these health issues as an epidemic on top of an epidemic.
On Thursday, March 30 at St. Peter’s A.M.E. church in South Minneapolis, Tuschman and his wife Pamela Rients presented an informational session about this epidemic to about 30 people, many who are church members currently participating in their Health Correction program. Tuschman was introduced by St Peter’s’ Pastor Nazim B. Fakir, who described meeting with Tuschman after the doctor came to his church requesting a meeting.
“[He] began telling me about a program that he and his wife had designed that would help folks to reverse type 2 diabetes, to reverse hypertension, and to help folks lose weight and basically live a much healthier life.”
Fakir said he was intrigued partly because of his own diagnosis of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But before sharing the information with the church he began the program himself in early November of last year.
“I was 236,” Fakir said. “Now I’m 199 pounds. My diabetes was reversed within the first eight days… I was taking medication for high blood pressure. I was prescribed metformin for diabetes. I no longer take any of them. Now what we’re trying to do is have a health revolution.”
During the presentation, Tuschman compared our current food environment to both the prison system and the cigarette industry. “For many, many years we were locking up about 150 folks per 100,000 in this country, and we made prison for profit in 1980.” According to his research, the U.S. went from approximately 166 to 703 incarcerated individuals per 100,000 from 1970 to 2007. “They made prisons for profit; they had to create customers.” For African Americans, 2,531 people were incarcerated per 100,000 compared to 393 Whites.
As for the cigarette industry, Tuschman said currently 1,300 people die of smoking-related issues per day. “That’s three 747s crashing every day… My dad was on one of those planes. My wife’s dad was on one of those planes.”
He said just as the cigarette industry created its own science — using doctors, celebrities and athletes to endorse their products — the food industry followed their model. As a result, 1,300 people die early of diseases related to obesity. “In 1980 we saw the diabetes rate go from two percent in 1970, to 10 percent by the year 2010. By the year 2050 it’s [projected at] 33 percent.”
The trend began, said Tuschman, in the early 80s, when food companies “were able to sell low-calorie foods to us and suggest that it would keep us from getting heavy….That’s not true, that’s not real. They created…something called a balance diet…nobody knows what they’re balancing.”
As a result of this change in the food system, “Obesity more than doubled in 40 years, and in 20 years [from now] we’re up to 50 percent of adults in the United States who are projected to be obese.
“And it gets worse,” he said. “When you focus in on African Americans, the obesity rate is one-and-a-half-times greater. The diabetes rate is two times greater. We have the highest rate of high blood pressure on the planet in the African American community. For people over the age of 50, 60 percent… So we’ve got an epidemic on top of an epidemic.”
Following Tuschman’s presentation, Rients showed a large salad bowl full of medications that her mom was taking before Rients went to live with her after health problems caused to be placed in a nursing home. “Today, I want to show you what she takes — those two pills,” a thyroid medication and a restless leg syndrome medication. “She [now] lives in an assisted living apartment all by herself… She’s 81 years old, but she healthy again.”
Rients described how sugar has a similar effect on the reward centers of the brain as cocaine, nicotine and heroine. “So when you eat that cookie, when you eat that ice cream, you’re getting the same kind of high in your brain as someone does when they do those drugs. That is a really strong addiction.”
Sugar is stored in three places, the liver, muscles, and fat cells, she said. However, the liver and muscles hold a limited certain amount of sugar. “When those things are full, the only place for what you’ve eaten to go is in the fat cells. The fat cells have an unlimited ability to grown bigger… Everything you eat after [the liver and muscles are full] goes into your fat cells. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of broccoli or an ice cream cone.”
The MSR spoke with Tuschman by phone after the presentation and asked what main things people can do to improve their heath around nutrition.
“Diabetes and obesity are clearly recognized as, in a sense, one and the same problem,” he answered. “And all of the associated problems that go with diabetes and obesity, including high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction… are the result of carbohydrate/metabolism problems. Because we have been led to believe that all human beings metabolize carbohydrates the same, but that is not true. There is an incredible variation between people and their ability to properly metabolize carbohydrates…
“We are under the illusion that the health advice that we are being given have some scientific relevance, when in reality what’s really going on is that we’re all just testing ourselves, and many of us are failing to keep up with the incredible demands of metabolizing so many carbohydrates, which really all break down into sugars.” Tuschman said that most of the programs that people seek for help rest upon the same science that created the problem in the first place.
When asked — given the health disparities between African Americans and their White counterparts — is there a different approach for addressing these health issues in the Black community, Tuschman said, “The reason that there is an incredible four times the rate of in-stage renal disease in the African American population is because in the African American community over the age of 50 there is a 60 percent high blood pressure rate and twice the rate of diabetes. You are asking kidneys to filter sugary blood under great pressure, and they fail to…
“So the way you address kidney failure is, you address the things that lead to kidney failure, which are diabetes and high blood pressure… But there is no different approach to someone based on skin color. It’s all the same science, so we are just bringing the science into the church to address these problems.
“We are not giving advice. In other words, the programs are individualized. We are taking daily metrics on people, so we are taking daily weight, daily blood pressure, daily fasting blood glucose. So we are not giving everyone the same plan because we need to correct their health and it needs to be done on a daily basis.
“So this is a different science that people are being exposed to. That’s why we get such robust results and we’re getting incredible results in the church.”
For more information about Health Correction, email DrSteve@healthcorrection.com or call 763-746-6185.
Vickie Evans-Nash welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vickie Evans-Nash is a contributing writer and former editor in chief at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.