An Organ of Many Talents, at the Root of Serious Ills

Natalie Angiers in The New York Times:

Ang Should anybody in the reliably pestilent health care debate be casting about for a mascot organ to represent some of the biggest medical crises that we Americans face, allow me to nominate a nonobvious candidate: the pancreas. It may lie in the hidden depths of the abdominal cavity, and its appearance, size and purpose may be obscure to the average person. Yet the pancreas turns out to be a linchpin in two epidemics that are all too familiar. As the organ entrusted with the manufacture of insulin and other hormones that help control blood sugar, the pancreas gone awry is a source of diabetes, which afflicts more than 23 million people in this country, including the newest member of the Supreme Court.

And as the tireless brewer of digestive juices that help shear apart the amalgamated foodstuffs that we consume each day, the pancreas is at the frontlines of our expanding waistlines, the mass outbreak of fatness that has already claimed 60 percent of Americans and shows no sign of slackening.

More here.