A question came my way recently from an old high school friend in the hometown.
His question came in the form of a Facebook message, and stemmed from his work in the vending machine business as someone who stocks those treasure-chests of food with all the Less Than $1 goodies for both People With Diabetes and our non-D counterparts.
He asked: “The perfect guy to ask about diabetes. So....can you get diabetes? Or are you born with it, and it finally shows up at some random part of your life? I have talked to 2 guys on my route who have just recently found out that they are diabetic. I just didn’t know how that worked.”
Ah. Another chance for Diabetes Advocacy arises, and offered an opportunity to educate those who aren’t directly touched by any type of diabetes personally. Hope that I helped make this Type 3 coworker a little more aware of what it is and isn’t.
In explaining some basic differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and how the latter is more associated with lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise, he elaborated a bit on the background of his question.
Old Friend: “Thanks. I was trying to see of my line of business was making me responsible for people having diabetes.”
Ah ha... I see. This focused my D-Advocacy and what may be needed on this question of the day.
We can probably get into a pretty worthwhile debate on the merits of vending machines and their part in the health behavior of our nation. But that wasn’t my focus here, but rather to pinpoint what I see to be the relative D-Advocacy points about the basics. Not getting into the general debate of whether vending machines are good for us or not. Some may say so, some may not. All to varying degrees.
The vending machine industry has been under fire these days, mostly from the health-conscious folk and those crying foul that schools offer so many vending machine options for students. A recent University of Michigan study from September 2010 shows these products compete with school lunch programs, and there is some link to obesity and unhealthier lifestyles being developed.
Actually, today President Barack Obama signed into law a measure aimed at cutting down greasy foods and extra calories in kids by giving the government more power to decide what can go into these vending machines - read: they'll likely be stocked with less candy and fewer high-calorie drinks.
And with the massive Health Care Reform Act, the industry faces new concerns from just one sentence in those sweeping 2,000 pages of reform: a provision requiring vending machine operators with 20 or more machines to provide a sign in close proximity to disclose the calorie count. This already law, but apparently everyone is awaiting FDA guidance on how to proceed.
Despite all that, vending machines aren’t the enemy to me. True, some are Greedy and I’ve done my best to advocate against those criminally-minded machines. But for the most part, I see vending machines as a tool in my daily D-Life challenges.
I'd also say that we don't need carb or calorie counts on a sign or posted anywhere inside or nearby. Seriously, we’re not talking exotic unknowns of the carbohydrates neither-worlds here. This is pretty straightforward stuff, and I’m fine with them currently being listed on the bags or wrappers of the snack itself. Having it somewhere else isn’t going to improve my health and change my choices… if that was such a concern, I wouldn’t be using the vending machine in the first place and would go get a snack somewhere else.
Now, it’d be different if I got something from them every single day and based my meal plans around what snacks might be consumed today. But I don’t. And I don’t think most people do that. If they do, then there’s something more pressing to address in that person’s life. IMHO.
So, with all of that in mind, I offered my thoughts to my old high school bud – saying that, in my opinion, he shouldn’t be too worried about causing diabetes of any type because there is more happening than simply people crafting their meal plans on what’s stocked behind the glass.
“I wouldn't worry too much about it... I don't think it's the vending machine snacks that are making people obese and possibly playing some small part in the Type 2 diabetes numbers. There's much more to it than that, and I'd argue with anyone who suggested vending machine (venders or connoisseurs??) were responsible in any way. Actually, on the flip side with Type 1 - I'd give you props. Can't count the number of times this Type 1 has depended on my office or some other vending machine for Skittles or some other snack when my blood sugar went too Low... I'd be lost without you and those vending machines!"
And that's where I left it. Until some of those very smart researchers instruct me otherwise and conclude that vending machines do, in fact, cause diabetes. In the meantime, I'll just keep feeding my change in the snack slot whenever the need arises.