Experts clarify myths around diabetes

Dangote Sugar Refinery [Photo Credit: Guardian Newspaper]
Dangote Sugar Refinery [Photo Credit: Guardian Newspaper]

As the world prepares to observe the World Diabetes Day on Tuesday, Medical experts say the condition is not caused by excessive consumption of sugar or certain types of foods.

The experts made the assertion at a Capacity Building Workshop on Diabetes for Health Journalist in Lagos ahead of the 2017 World Diabetes Day.

The workshop, organised by Sanofi, a global healthcare organisation, has the theme “Equipping Present-day Journalists for Effective Reporting of Diabetes’’.

The World Diabetes Day is marked annually on Nov. 14 and the theme for 2017 is “Women and Diabetes — Our Right to a Healthy Future’’.

However, contrary to the common notion that diabetes is caused by excessive consumption of sugar or certain types of foods, the experts insist that “it is not sugar or foods that cause diabetes’’.

Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as Diabetes Mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both.

Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).

Ifedayo Odeniyi, an Endocrinologist and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, explains that diabetes is a problem with the body’s handling of glucose.

“Most people believe that when you have diabetes, it is because you eat too much sugar, this is not correct.

“Diabetes is not as a result of consuming sugar or sugary things, but rather, it is as a result of the body’s inability to handle glucose in the body.

“The glucose comes from all the food we eat whether it is meat, carbohydrate, protein or fat; so, in their normal forms, the body does not recognise them.

“The only thing the body recognises is glucose as a source of energy; when eat `eba’, `fufu’ foods prepared from cassava, rice and others, the body changes them to glucose,” he said.

Mr. Odeniyi added: “The body needs glucose for energy for us to move around, eyes to see, brain to function and for every part of the body to function well.

“However, before the body can make use of this glucose, one hormone is very important and that is insulin.

“After we have eaten and glucose is in the system, the pancreas produces insulin, (which lies on body cells), when the body senses there is glucose in the system.

“When it does that, the channel is opened for the insulin to go into the body cell for them to be broken down into energy, carbon dioxide and water.

“So, insulin can be likened to be the key that opens the door for the glucose to go in.

“Some people’s body may not be producing insulin at all, as in those that have Type 1 diabetes.’’

He noted that some people might be producing insulin but it is either it was not enough or was not working well enough to allow the glucose to be absorbed into the blood stream.

“This is what happens in those that have Type 2 diabetes, so, it is not the food that is causing diabetes,’’ he said.

Mr. Odeniyi, who is also an Honorary Consultant Endocinologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said that most people believed that someone with diabetes must be on a special diet.

“There is no special diet for diabetes and there is nothing like diabetic diet.

“We hear that the diet for people with diabetes should be beans, unripe plantain and wheat.

“Diabetic patients can eat everything; the only thing that should change is the quantity of which must be regulated.

“There are so many diets but none specific for diabetes; in which ever environment one is, use the food that is culturally accepted to the patient to manage the person.

“So, as long you can control the calories, a patient can eat any type of food,” Mr. Odeniyi said.

Oladimeji Agbolade, Head, External Affairs, Sanofi, said that diabetes had become a global pandemic.

According to him, as at 2015, it is estimated that 415 million adults have diabetes and it is expected to rise to 642 million by 2040.

He said that managing the disease was tedious and time-consuming but required effective management which would include taking extra care around food and exercise, as well as monitoring of blood levels throughout the day.

Mr. Agbolade urged the federal government to make a policy that would ensure that Nigerians were compulsorily tested for diabetes anytime they went to a hospital.

The most common types of diabetes are: Type 1, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, and Type 2, a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose).

Others are Prediabetes in which blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes and Gestational diabetes, a form of high blood sugar affecting pregnant women.

(NAN)


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