Are your eating habits contributing to diabetes? Be mindful of these foods to avoid.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 14, 2023
Updated 2023/11/14 at 9:59 PM

World Diabetes Day is observed annually on November 14 to draw attention to the growing diabetes epidemic and its consequences, while also providing education on lifestyle practices to mitigate its impact.

The designation of World Diabetes Day as an official United Nations day occurred in 2006, following its establishment by the International Diabetes Federation in 1991, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). In Nigeria, the WHO estimates a diabetes prevalence rate of 4.3%, largely attributed to lifestyle changes resulting from urbanization.

The disease is linked to factors such as unhealthy diets, consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, tobacco use, excessive alcohol intake, and lack of physical activity. Diabetes, a non-communicable disease, manifests as elevated glucose levels due to insufficient insulin supply (Type 1 diabetes) or inefficient use of insulin (Type 2 diabetes).

While the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes remains unknown, genetics and environmental factors, including viral exposure, are probable contributors. Type 2 diabetes is predominantly associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Diabetes is a risk factor for various health conditions, including cancer, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and impotence. In Nigeria, the prevalence of diabetes is among the highest in Africa, and it is estimated that over 500 million adults worldwide will be affected by diabetes by 2030.

Dr. Livinus Abonyi, a Medical Imaging Scientist, attributes the increase in diabetes cases to urbanization and an aging population. Aging is often accompanied by a decline in lean body mass and an increase in body fat, particularly visceral adiposity (overweight), contributing to insulin resistance.

Dr. Abonyi points out that diabetes prevalence is lower in rural areas compared to urban communities, primarily due to the sophisticated lifestyles practiced in cities. He highlights corruption, greed, and inadequate regulation as major factors contributing to the disease burden in Nigeria. Substandard products, driven by greed and a lack of regulatory enforcement, contribute to the health issues faced by citizens.

Self-medication is another concerning factor contributing to the high incidence of diabetes in Nigeria. Dr. Abonyi notes that many Nigerians engage in self-prescription without proper investigation or diagnosis, leading to adverse effects on major organs and an increased risk of diabetes.

He emphasizes the need for effective regulation, with agencies responsible for quality assurance and approval of consumables often crippled by corruption. Dr. Abonyi advocates for a shift away from a reckless eating culture, where individuals prioritize personal wants over nutritional needs, contributing to childhood obesity among the affluent.

To address the rising incidence of diabetes, Dr. Abonyi calls for a collective effort to combat corruption and emphasizes the importance of informed eating habits and responsible healthcare practices.

He emphasized that a sincere commitment to combating corruption must be established and exemplified by government leaders. According to him, this approach would reinforce regulations, instill trust in the system, and diminish the criminality associated with the production or importation of counterfeit and substandard goods.

Abonyi also underscored the importance of collaborative efforts among government agencies, non-governmental organizations, public health experts, healthcare practitioners, associations, and the media to educate citizens on optimal nutritional habits and practices.

“Corruption poses a lethal threat to citizens unless they actively resist corruption within their system. Citizens should seek professional healthcare in registered hospitals when unwell. To facilitate this, the existing National Health Insurance Act should be fully implemented, as it mandates health insurance for all,” Abonyi emphasized.

Dr. Bolanle Okunowo, an Endocrinologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), added her voice, urging Nigerians to adopt healthy eating habits. Okunowo, a consultant physician, advocated for a reduction in the consumption of refined diets and an increase in diets high in fiber.

She emphasized the necessity of lowering high-calorie diets that can lead to obesity, causing insulin resistance. Regular medical checkups were also recommended, with Okunowo noting that prediabetes, if detected early through routine checkups, can be reversed with proper medical advice and treatment.

“Engage in regular exercise and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Refrain from smoking and reduce or eliminate alcohol use, including energy drinks,” Okunowo advised.

Regarding the government’s role in alleviating the burden of diabetes, Okunowo suggested an increase in taxes on high sugar/energy drinks and a reduction in taxes on low or no sugar drinks to discourage the consumption of high-calorie beverages. She also emphasized the need for health education through various social media platforms, spacious playing grounds in schools to encourage physical activity, and an affordable healthcare system for early screening and treatment of diabetes mellitus.

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