Dr. Ileana Vargas Supports a Bill to Help New Yorkers Make Healthier Food Choices

Dr. Vargas shows city council members how much sugar is in a can of soda. Photo courtesy of the New York City Council. 

On February 1, Dr. Ileana Vargas testified at City Hall in New York City with her famous "sugar tube" in hand. Dr. Vargas spoke in support of a bill she hopes will address the growing diabetes epidemic in New York City. The Sweet Truth Act requires NYC chain restaurants to add warning labels on items with excessive amounts of added sugars. Thus far the campaign is going strong, said Dr. Vargas, with the City Council bill reaching supermajority co-sponsorship status a couple of weeks ago.

Below is Dr. Vargas’s testimony on the Sweet Truth Act:

“My name is Ileana Vargas-Rodriguez, I am an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at CHONY- Presbyterian at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and I work at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center in Washington Heights.  I specialize in Pediatric Endocrinology.

 When I started my career, I thought I was going to spend the bulk of my time taking care of children with autoimmune type 1 diabetes (juvenile onset diabetes). But in the early 2000’s, paralleling the rising rates of weight gain, we started seeing children and adolescents, especially those with severe obesity with type 2 diabetes (adult-onset diabetes). For the past 25 years I have been working in our community, focusing on the clinical care of pediatric patients with diabetes and my main goal has been to try to prevent type 2 diabetes in our children.

I am not an alarmist, but what I am witnessing these past several years is quite concerning. The rates of children developing type 2 has more than doubled, we are seeing approximately 1-3 new patients with new onset type 2 diabetes weekly (remember this was called adult-onset diabetes and should be zero children having this disease).  On my last on call this past weekend we had a new onset 10-year male and 15-year female, one was diagnosed during their routine physical exam and noted to have a blood sugar of greater than 400 mg/dl and the other came in with severe elevated blood sugar to our ICU with heart inflammation due to carrying excess weight and type 2 diabetes.

The Sweet Truth Bill must pass, to make us aware how certain drinks and foods that are promoted to ALL of us are quite unhealthy. It will allow us to make our own decisions for ourselves, but most importantly for our children and families.  Most of us know sugared sweetened beverages are not great for us, but when I show both doctors in training and my patients the sugar tubes of how much sugar is really in a can of soda or juice their eyes widen up! They say, “Wow, I had no idea!” This bill will help our community improve nutrition literacy, but most importantly it can promote self-care and wellness.”

Stay tuned for updates on Dr. Vargas’s advocacy efforts to reduce type 2 diabetes.