Eric Adams: I reversed my diabetes. Now I want to help America get healthy

Editor’s note: Eric Adams is the Mayor of New York and a former New York State Senator. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion on CNN.


The US food system is fueling a public health crisis. From obesity to type 2 diabetes, this crisis is rapidly worsening – and we need to act now. Major advances have been made in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, but it’s high time for us to shift our focus from calories to nutrition, to help Americans get — and stay — healthy.

The American way of eating today is about profit, not progress, about empty calories and fast food, not about health. As mayor of New York, I see the effects firsthand. About 1.4 million people in our city are food insecure, according to the New York City Dietary Measures Report 2021 — even as more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese, according to United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, as the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health points out, nearly one in five children are already overweight, putting them at risk for lifelong health problems and chronic disease.

This problem is personal to me.

One morning in 2016, I woke up and couldn’t see the numbers on my alarm clock. I went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. He told me that my driver’s license might be revoked due to vision loss and that I might have permanent nerve damage to my fingers. and toes.

I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on insulin. So I did something scientific: I Googled “reverse diabetes.” Through this research, I eventually came into contact with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn from the Cleveland Clinic, who told me that I could treat my diabetes by changing my lifestyle, including changing my diet and doing some exercice.

I was skeptical at first. But reducing meat and dairy consumption in favor of fresh produce and grains made an immediate difference to my health – and the long-term benefits were transformative. In three months, I lost a lot of weight, lowered my cholesterol, restored my vision and reversed my diabetes. I recognize that many people don’t have access to specialists like Esselstyn who can speak personally about the ins and outs of nutrition, and it may not be possible for everyone to reverse a diagnosis of diabetes with a lifestyle change or even with medication, but I’ve made it my mission to use what I’ve learned and improve New Yorkers’ access to nutritious, affordable, high-quality food. , so that more people can avoid diseases in the first place.

The disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on black and brown communities has been tragically compounded by existing health disparities related to diet. While high-income neighborhoods have overwhelming options when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, low-income communities of color often live in nutritional deserts with fewer grocery stores and a higher concentration of processed foods, sugary drinks and shelf-stable products.

From the beginning, my administration has centered food and public health in all aspects of our policy development.

We are investing in our food infrastructure by supporting the renovation of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center in the Bronx, one of the largest wholesale distribution centers in the world in a majority black and brown community, and which supplies approximately 25% of the city ​​products.

Last spring, we launched Plant-Fed Fridays in all of our public schools and are upgrading 100 school kitchens across five boroughs to better serve our children and educators. My administration has institutionalized one of the nation’s largest food procurement programs and has just introduced fresh produce into the nation’s only municipal emergency food system. Finally, we are developing urban farms on our social housing properties through the New York City Housing Authority.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration will convene the first White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health in more than 50 years. I am proud to have convened a conference of food leaders in New York this summer to start a discussion on new ideas. I shared these ideas with the White House in a letter last month.

Our efforts here in New York have been transformative, but we cannot do this work alone. A new wave of ambitious federal action is needed to reverse the trend of diet-related disease in our city and across the country. We must tackle the current crisis of unhealthy diets, economic inequality and chronic disease. This historic White House conference, with an agenda that touches on many of these issues, will highlight the need for change – and hopefully offer ideas to guide that change.

For our schools, we need to source fresh, local produce and stop the predatory advertising of junk food to our children. We also need to think locally, investing in urban food production, regional food networks and last-mile distribution.

I am grateful to our congressional leaders and the Biden-Harris administration for their commitment to ending hunger, increasing access to healthy food choices, and addressing the leading causes of illness and death related to food in our communities.

Now is the time for our country to move from treatment to prevention, from nurturing the disease to giving people the tools to create sustainable lifestyles and healthier, stronger communities.

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