# An Interview with a Nonagenarian

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Nonagenarian: “First and foremost I pay great attention to what I drink.”

Interviewer: “Madam, what do you drink?”

Nonagenarian: “It’s a good question. Normally, I drink beer for better digestion.

Interviewer: “What else?”

Nonagenarian: “When I lose appetite I drink white wine.”

Interviewer: “Good.”

Nonagenarian:  “When my blood pressure is low I drink red wine and if my blood pressure shoots up, I drink Scotch.”

Interviewer: “Oh, my God!”

Nonagenarian: “And if I have a cold I drink the Polish-distilled Spirytus Vodka, 192 Proof.”

Interviewer: “But madam, when do you drink water?”

Nonagenarian: “Oh! I’ve never been that sick!”

# The Pendulum Clock

Time is what a clock reads. In classical, non-relativistic physics it is a scalar quantity and, like length, mass, and charge, is usually ascribed as a fundamental quantity. Mathematically, time is combined with other physical quantities to derive concepts such as motion, kinetic energy and time-dependent fields.

Around 1602, Galileo Galilei studied pendulums and discovered isochronism, the key property that makes pendulums useful to timekeepers. He found that the period of swing of a pendulum is approximately the same for differently sized swings. From his findings, Galileo in 1637 had the idea for the construction of a pendulum clock, which was partly constructed by his son in 1649, but neither lived to finish it.

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The above is a drawing is probably the first design for a pendulum clock designed by Galileo around 1641. Part of the front supporting plate is removed by the artist to show the wheelwork. Although the source says the drawing is by Galileo, it is undoubtedly the one drawn by his student Vincenzo Viviani in 1659, since Galileo was blind by the time he had the idea.

This pendulum clock was partly constructed by his son Vincenzo Galilei, the illegitimate son of Galileo Galilei and his mistress Marina Gamba in 1649 who was later legitimated by his father in 1619, but neither lived to finish it.

In 1656, the Dutch scientist and inventor Christiaan Huygens, inspired by the investigations of pendulums by Galileo invented the pendulum clock. He patented his clock on June 16, 1657.

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# The Metre

The Meter is a metric measurement slightly longer than a yard; thus, a 100-meter dash might take you a second longer than a 100-yard dash. – Definition of Meter by Merriam-Webster.

1 metre ≈ 1.0936 yard or 39.370 inches.

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A seconds pendulum is a pendulum whose period is precisely two seconds; one second for a swing in one direction and one second for the return swing, a frequency of 1/2 Hz. Christiaan Huygens had observed that length as 38 Rijnland inches or 39.26 English inches; that is, 997 mm.

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In 1660, Christopher Wren suggested the use of the seconds pendulum to define length to the Royal Society. In 1668, John Wilkins, an English cleric and philosopher in an essay proposed the adoption of a decimal-based unit of length using the universal measure or standard based on a seconds pendulum. However, the Royal Society took no official action on these suggestions.

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During the French Revolution that lasted 10 years from 1789 to 1799, the French Academy of Sciences charged a commission with determining a single scale for all measures. On October 7, 1790, that commission advised adopting the decimal system, and on March 19, 1791, advised adopting the term mètre (Greek “measure”), a basic unit of length, which they defined as equal to one ten-millionth of the distance between the Earth’s equator and the North Pole through Paris, thus making the kilometre 1/10,000 of this distance.

In 1793, the French National Convention adopted the proposal. The use of metre in English began at least as early as 1797.

The metre (British spelling and BIPM spelling) or meter (American spelling) from the French unit mètre, derived from the Greek noun μέτρον (“measure”) is the base unit of length in some metric systems, including the International System of Units (SI). The SI unit symbol is m.

In 1799, the metre was redefined in terms of a prototype metre bar. However, it was later determined that the first prototype metre bar was short by about 200 micrometres because of miscalculation of the flattening of the Earth, making the prototype about 0.02% shorter than the original proposed definition of the metre. Regardless, this length became the French standard and was progressively adopted by other countries in Europe.

The main problem with defining the length standard by an artefact such as the meter bar is that there is no sure way to determine if it has changed length due to age, deterioration, or misuse. It can be compared to other bar standards, but these may have changed length themselves.

In the 1870s and in light of modern precision, a series of international conferences were held to devise new metric standards. The Metre Convention (Convention du Mètre) of 1875 mandated the establishment of a permanent International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM: Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) in Sèvres, France. This new organisation was to construct and preserve a prototype metre bar, distribute national metric prototypes, and maintain comparisons between them and non-metric measurement standards.

The BIPM made 30 prototype standard bars of 90% platinum–10% iridium alloy. One of the bars was selected as the International Meter. In 1889 at the first General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM: Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures), the International Prototype Metre was established as the distance between two lines on a standard bar composed of an alloy of 90% platinum and 10% iridium, measured at the melting point of ice.

The Prototype Metre bars had a modified X cross-section named for the French scientist, Henri Tresca, who proposed it.

After selecting the bar for use as the International Prototype Meter, the other bars were calibrated relative to it and were given to nations to serve as their national standards.

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The United States received the National Prototype Meter Bar No. 27, and No. 21 in 1890. The US adoption of the metric system in 1893 made the meter the fundamental length standard of the US, and No. 27 became the primary national standard for all length measurements.

Now, this original international prototype of the metre is now in the collection of the NIST Museum, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, because in 1960 the SI changed the standard of length to define the meter by the wavelength of light of a spectral line of krypton 86.

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# Are You Bothered by Earwax?

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Secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals is a grey, orange, or yellowish waxy substance known by the medical term cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax. Earwax consists of shed skin cells, hair, and the secretions of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands of the outside ear canal. Major components of earwax are long chain fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated, alcohols, squalene, and cholesterol.

Earwax protects the ear from dust, foreign particles, and has antimicrobial properties that protect the skin of the human ear canal. It assists in cleaning and lubrication, of the ear canal and provides some protection against microorganisms such as some strains of bacteria, fungi, and from insects. It also protects the ear canal skin from irritation due to water.

In normal circumstances, excess wax finds its way naturally out of the canal and into the ear opening and thenwashed away. Some people are prone to produce too much earwax which doesn’t automatically lead to blockage. At times, when our glands make more earwax than necessary, it may get hard and block the ear. Excess or compacted cerumen can press against the eardrum or block the outside ear canal or hearing aids, potentially causing hearing loss.

Frequent use of earphones might cause wax buildup and can inadvertently cause blockages by preventing earwax from coming out of the ear canals.

Movement of the jaw helps the ears’ natural cleaning process. The American Academy of Otolaryngology discourages earwax removal unless the excess earwax is causing problems.

We should take great caution when trying to treat earwax buildup at home. When we clean our ears, we can accidentally push the wax deeper, when using cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects in our ear canal causing a blockage. So, in a way, the wax buildup is a common reason for a temporary hearing loss.

If the problem of hearing loss persists,  it is advisable to visit a doctor.

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# Bakelite: The Early Plastic Created as an Alternative to Secreted Beetle Resin

Synthetic plastics are a relatively new invention. For hundreds of years, people had been using organic plastics in some form or another. For example, in Medieval Europe, animal horns that had been scraped thin and flattened were used to make translucent windows. Another common plastic derived from natural sources are natural gum rubbers, which was later vulcanized and popularized by Charles Goodyear. As technology progressed, more natural plastics were used to create more products.

Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in countries like India and Thailand. In the early 20th century, to insulate early electronic devices, the dawning electronics industries in America and Europe were importing shellac by the shipload which was quite costly. So, many companies were looking for cheap alternatives.

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In 1907, Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland (November 14, 1863 – February 23, 1944), a Belgian chemist working in New York, best known for the inventions of Velox photographic paper in 1893, made an extensive study of natural polymers such as the shellac he was attempting to replace. By combining phenol and formaldehyde he created polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, a completely synthetic polymer. By subjecting this synthetic polymer to pressure in moulds to force the air bubbles out, he created a smooth and hard plastic – the pervasive early 20th-century plastic called Bakelite, an inexpensive, nonflammable and versatile plastic, which marked the beginning of the modern plastics industry. He has been called “The Father of the Plastics Industry” for the invention of Bakelite.

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Bakelite being resistant to electricity, heat, and chemicals, quickly found its way into a countless number of applications. Bakelite has been used to form the bodies of consumer electronics, insulating wires, parts for firearms, brake pads, camera bodies, and importantly the iconic black Bakelite telephones, and more.

At one point during metal shortages created by World War II, the United States government even considered making coins using Bakelite.

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# The Bishwa Ijtema Special Trains – the Most Crowded Trains in the World

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This year, the three-day Bishwa Ijtema, began on January 12 in Tongi, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Bishwa Ijtema meaning  ‘Global Congregation’ in Bengali is one of the largest peaceful annual gatherings of Muslims in the world that takes place in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees take part in prayers and listen to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Holy Quran. The number of devotees exceeds 5 million with an estimated 20,000-50,000 foreign devotees.

The Bishwa Ijtema culminates in the Akheri Munajat or the Final Prayer, when millions of participating devotees raise their hands beseeching Allah (God)  for world peace.

To help the devotees attending the Biswa Ijtema, the Bangladesh Railway (BR) made arrangements to run special trains on different routes of the country.

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The above video shows the Bishwa Ijtema Special Train 2018, one of the most crowded trains in the world operated for Bishwa Ijtema 2018. However, this is not a regular occurrence during the normal train services run by the Bangladesh Railway.

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As per the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 and the Rules made thereunder, the wearing of helmets is mandatory. As per Section 129 of this Motor Vehicle Act, two-wheeler riders and pillion riders should compulsorily wear helmets. So, The City Traffic Police have decided to strictly enforce this rule and impose fines from ₹100 to ₹200 for not wearing helmets.

Now the helmet rule has been made compulsory for both the two-wheeler rider and the pillion rider.

On August 23, 2018, TK Rajendran, the Director General of Police, Tamilnadu, issued a circular to all police commissioners in cities and superintendents of police in districts to implement helmet rules strictly and book more cases on pillion riders not wearing a helmet.

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The Court has made it compulsory for both rider and the pillion rider to wear helmets. I accept that wearing a helmet is a safety precaution but feel that it should be left as a safety guideline only and not be made a law and is against the basic concept of freedom.

If a rider and the pillion rider are not wearing helmets, then they in no way are causing any problem to other commuters or the flow of traffic.

Normally, wearing a helmet is very uncomfortable for old people like me and women in general, and it is excruciatingly harrowing for both young and old during the arid Indian summer.

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The above incident happened on one of our well-maintained International Standard Indian roads. Was it due to the rider not wearing a helmet?

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# All Men Are Same!

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The traditional Chinese New year holiday is absolutely the worst time to travel anywhere in China when millions head home to spend the traditional Chinese New year holiday at their parental homes, and railway stations like Guangzhou in Guangdong, a province in South China, see around 175,000 passengers daily.

The phrase “All Men Are Same!” was coined after a Chinese woman lost her husband in a crowd during the festive season.

It was a nightmare for the Chinese woman and her husband to reach their cosy hotel in an alleyway off the main tourist thoroughfare. They had to push and shove their way through the thick crowd of people who all looked the same, and got separated.

She desperately searched for her husband and ultimately went with a man to his home who too had lost his partner in the crowd.

# Mansa Musa I – the Richest Human Being in All History

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When we talk about the world’s all-time richest people, we immediately come up with names like Rothschild Family, John D Rockefeller, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.

The Celebrity Net Worth website compiled a list of the world’s 26 richest people in the last 1000 years. Oddly, there are no women on the list, only three members are alive today and 14 of the top 25 are Americans.

Here is the list of  the ‘26 richest people of all time’ (courtesy:  independent.co.uk):

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) \$400 billion

2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) \$350 billion

3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) \$340 billion

4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) \$310 billion

5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) \$300 billion

6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) \$236 billion

7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) \$229.5 billion

9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) \$199 billion

10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) \$185 billion

11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) \$178.65 billion

12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) \$136 billion

13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) \$146.13 billion

14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) \$121 billion

15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion

16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion

17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) \$105 billion

18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) \$90 billion

19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) \$85.1 billion

20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) \$80 billion

21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) \$71 billion

22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) \$68 billion

23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (landowner, 1764- 1839) \$68 billion

24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) \$66 billion

25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) \$65billion

26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) \$64billion

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Mansa Musa I

Topping the list is Mansa Musa I (c. 1280 to c. 1337) was the tenth Mansa of the wealthy West African Mali Empire making his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production. The term ‘Mansa’  translates to “sultan“, “conqueror” or “emperor”.

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As a young man Mansa Musa I  built many mosques which still stand today.

After Mansa Musa I death in 1331, however, his heirs were unable to hang on to the fortune, and it was substantially depleted by civil wars and invading armies.

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# Oh, Sweet Poison, Thy Name Is Sugar!

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###### “It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.” – Richard Johnson, Nephrologist, University of Colorado Denver

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What does the word “sugar” mean to you?

To me, anything that tastes sweet: cane sugar (sucrose), beet sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, syrups, sugary drinks, molasses, agave the popular ingredient for tequila, chocolates, toffees, confectioneries, etc.

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Most of us had our first singular experience of sweetness when we licked the dab of cake icing or a drop of honey from the finger of one of our loving parents.

Even though sugar tastes delicious it is not a food.

Though it is habit-forming it is not a drug, but many people get addicted to it.

The more sugar you taste, the more you want.

Sugar provides instant energy and quickens the muscles, but it is not a nutrient.

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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of carbohydrates, derived from various sources.

Carbohydrates supply energy for working muscles. They provide fuel for the central nervous system, enable fat metabolism, and prevent the protein from being used as energy.

Before learning to grow food, the carbohydrates that our ancestors consumed for energy must have come from whatever plants that were available to them according to the season.

Around 6,000 BC, people in New Guinea cultivated sugarcane. They drank the sweet juice by chewing the stalks of the sugarcane. The cultivation of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland. By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. By 600 AD sugar found its way to China, Persia, and northern Africa. Eventually, by the 11th century, it reached Europe. In England between the 18th and 19th centuries consumption of sugar increased by 1,500 percent.

By the mid 19th century, Europeans, Americans and the people of the civilized world became habituated to the use of refined sugar and considered it as a staple item of food.

Now, we consume sugar daily in one form or another because our body cells depend on carbohydrates for energy. An ingrained love for sweetness has evolved within us and we use sugar generously to sweeten almost all our raw, cooked, baked, frozen food and drinks.

There is good and bad food. Health experts point their finger accusingly at all foods that have sugar and brand them bad. They say that we are in fact poisoning ourselves by satiating our sweet tooth. Some even use the adjective ‘toxic’ to describe sugar and say it disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles and endangers our internal and external organs.

All experts say the use of sugar results in high rates of obesity, metabolic disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other ailments.

Testing urine by smelling and tasting was once the primary method used to diagnose diseases. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) of Kos noticed that a patient’s urine smelled differently as the course of fever changed. The Greco-Roman doctor Galen (131-201 AD) of Pergamon believed that urine revealed the health of the liver, where blood was supposedly produced. He stated, evaluating the urine was the best way to find whether or not the body’s four humours – blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile – were in equilibrium.

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In 1675, Thomas Willis (1621-1675), an English physician who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry, and a founding member of the Royal Society of London, was the first in modern medical literature to diagnose diabetes by the taste of urine. He observed that the urine of the diabetics tasted “wonderfully sweet, as if it were imbued with honey or sugar.” His taste test impelled him to append the latin word ‘mellitus‘ for honey to this form of diabetes. Ancient  Hindu, Chinese, and Arab texts also have reports of the same sweet taste in urine of patients suffering from diabetes.

Haven Emerson (1874-1957), Emeritus Professor of Public Health Practice at Columbia University, New York, pointed out that significant increase in deaths from diabetes between 1900 and 1920 corresponded with an increase in sugar consumption.

In the 1960s a series of experiments on animals and humans conducted by John Yudkin, the British nutrition expert revealed that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat that paved the way for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s warning was not heard because other scientists blamed the rising rates of obesity and heart disease to cholesterol caused by much-saturated fat in the diet.

Even though the Americans changed their diet by consuming less fat than they did 20 years before, obesity increased.

Why?

The culprit was sugar and fructose in particular.

Now, we eat most of our sugar mainly as sucrose or table sugar. Americans include high-fructose corn syrup as well.

One molecule each of two simple sugars – glucose and fructose, having the same chemical formula, but with slightly different molecular structures, bond together to form a molecule of sucrose.

Because fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose, an inexpensive syrup mixing the two was an appealing alternative to sucrose from sugarcane and beets. In the 1960s, the U.S. corn industry developed a new technology to convert corn-derived glucose into fructose from which high fructose corn syrup was produced. Despite its name, the high fructose corn syrup has 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and three percent other sugars.

The various avatars of sugar are metabolized differently in the body. Our body cells prefer the simple sugars fructose and glucose to the heavier disaccharide sucrose. Enzymes such as sucrase in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose instantaneously. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to all of our tissues.

The human body regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose reaches all the tissues in the body through the bloodstream. It stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, the hormone which helps remove excess glucose from the blood, and boosts production of leptin, the hormone which suppresses hunger.

All body cells convert glucose into energy, but only liver cells can convert fructose to energy by metabolizing it into glucose and lactate.

Too much fructose from sugars and sugary drinks including fruit juices taxes the liver by making it spend much energy on converting and leaving less for all its other functions. This leads to excess production of uric acid that induces the formation of gout, kidney stones and leads to high blood pressure. According to some researchers, large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they need since it raises the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.

Sugar also triggers the body to increase production of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol often informally called bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol transports their content of many fat molecules into artery walls, attract macrophages, and thus drive atherosclerosis.

Also, excess fructose increases fat production, especially in the liver. The fat converts to circulating triglycerides that are easily stored in fatty tissue, leading to obesity and a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular diseases.

Some researchers have linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance – a condition in which cells become unusually less responsive to insulin, exhausting the pancreas until it loses the ability to regulate blood glucose levels properly.

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Richard J. Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver has proposed that uric acid produced by fructose metabolism also promotes insulin resistance thought to be a major contributor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the disorders that often occur together.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic quotes Dr Richard J. Johnson:

“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.

Why is it that one-third of adults [worldwide] have high blood pressure when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure? Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.”

Now, more than one-third of adults and nearly 12.5 million adolescents and children are obese in the United States. In 1980 about 5.6  million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. However, in 2011 more than 20 million Americans were found to be diabetic.

Dr Arun Bal, diabetic foot surgeon warns:

“India is facing an epidemic of diabetes. At present, confirmed diabetes patients in India are 67 million, with another 30 million in prediabetes group. By 2030, India will have the largest number of [diabetic] patients in the world. Diabetes is not only a blood sugar problem but brings along other complications as well.”

Dr Suresh Vijan, an Interventional cardiologist, also warns:

“The incidence of heart disease is increasing at a rapid rate. It was 1.09% in the 1950s, increased to 9.7 % in 1990, and 11% by 2000. This rising trend will make India the heart disease capital of the world… Indians face a dual risk of heart disease and diabetes. The risk of death due to myocardial infarction is three times higher in diabetics as compared with non-diabetics. Life expectancy too is reduced by 30% in diabetics as compared to non-diabetics; this translates into a loss of eight years of life… Increased consumption of dense-rich foods along with increasing sedentary lifestyle has increased the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.”

Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, is crusading against the use of sugar. His YouTube videos “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” and “Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0” have gone viral.

It’s not just the heart, diabetes takes a severe toll on vision too.

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