How Sweet It Was

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM


Times used to be sweeter in some respects.


Time was, epidemics were caused by contact with an infected person, a vector or a fomite.  (A vector is an organism, like a mosquito or tick, that carries disease-causing microorganisms from one host to another.  A fomite is an inanimate object or substance that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another.)


Now the worst epidemics appear to be caused primarily by self-contact.  Specifically, contact between the hand and the mouth during a process called “eating.”


Time was, unless you were a Borgia, eating was not so intimately linked to –cides, both sui- and homi-.


As of this week, it is confirmed by both the WHO and the International Diabetes Foundation , over-eating and under-activity now kill more of us yearly from the complications of diabetes mellitus alone than AIDS.


Time was, when it came to eating utensils and suicide, you had to stab yourself with a knife to cause death.  People now seem to be adding the options of:


a.            teaspooning,

b.            tablespooning,

c.            forking (obviously not salad) and

d.            combining-all-of-the-above

themselves to death.


The human is a most creative animal.  Although it is frequently said that we are the only animal capable of creating and using tools, it is perhaps more accurate to say that we are the only animal capable of creating and using tools for our own destruction.


Time was, parents protected their children from harm.  Homicide through over-eating and under-exercising is what many parents are doing to their children.  (Arguably, most parents are doing this as most people of reproductive age are overweight or obese.)


It is no secret that childhood overweight and obesity are already epidemics and worsening.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in three of today’s children will become diabetic during their lifetime as a result of being unfit.  The odds are even worse for black and Hispanic children: nearly half of them are likely to develop the disease.


So where does homicidal parenting come into play?  Well, if one parent is overweight, a child has a 40% chance of developing weight problems and if both parents are overweight, a child has a whopper-ing 80-90% chance of developing weight problems.


By the way, the “mellitus” in diabetes mellitus literally means “sweet.”  About 1500 BCE, black ants were being used as a clinical diagnostic test for detecting diabetes.  Hindus in the Ayur Veda recorded that insects and flies were attracted to the urine of certain people, that the urine of these people tasted sweet and that this was associated with certain maladies.  The records do not provide the name of the person who discovered that the urine tasted sweet.


I prefer sweetness in my life, not in my urine.