The diabetes rate has doubled in the last ten years. The latest research is now pointing the finger at sugar. *Photo supplied
The diabetes rate has doubled in the last ten years. The latest research is now pointing the finger at sugar. *Photo supplied

Debbie Jones is currently a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and a diabetes nurse educator at the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Education Centre. She writes a monthly diabetes column for the Bermuda Sun to help educate people about one of the island’s biggest killers.


The diabetes epidemic is only getting worse and according to a new study out of Stanford University, this is due to sugar being readily available in the food we eat and drinks we drink. There are now daily reports on the effects of sugar and arguments for and against. 

 

It is still necessary, however, to remind people that twenty teaspoons of added sugar in one drink is way too much sugar. 

Today, people are easily consuming several sugary drinks a day and the more they consume the more they want to consume. The evidence is in. Sugar is
addictive.

The study showed that for every increase of 150 calories as sugar the prevalence of diabetes rose by 1.1 per cent. In real terms this means that for every can of soda a person drinks per day the risk for diabetes goes up. 

The study also showed that the consumption of sugar outweighed all other risk factors such as sedentary lifestyle, urbanization and aging. 

The diabetes rate has doubled in the last ten years. The latest research is now pointing the finger at sugar. 

As diabetes educators it is also our duty to make sure everyone understands that sugar is only part of the equation. 

Eating habits

It is important that people not only change their eating habits but make sure they become physically active as well. We have to look at the whole picture which includes eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water, avoiding sugary drinks and being active for at least thirty minutes a day.

Why is it so hard to get this message across? Part of the problem is that today you have an option of whether to be active or not. You no longer have to cook a meal and fast food is something to be picked up on the way home and then eaten in front of the television. 

People have forgotten that eating vegetables are good for them. So many of the fruits and vegetables that are available in the grocery stores or from the farmers market not only help prevent heart disease but also help control cholesterol and prevent cancer. It’s hardly rocket science yet more and more people are diagnosed with diabetes every day so for whatever reason people are missing the point that in order to be healthy they need to adopt a healthier lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, eating fruits and vegetables and drinking water.

It is now time that Governments take a stance. We cannot accept the argument that it is against our civil liberty to be told how to eat, what to drink and
to exercise. 

This epidemic is crippling our economy. We can do something about it. Its time that water be available and affordable. It’s ludicrous that a bottle of water be more expensive than a bottle of soda or sugary fruit drink. 

Employers need to promote water as the beverage of choice. Soda and sugary drink dispensing machines need to be banned from public places. Reward employees for making healthy choices. At the end of the day this will benefit everyone as the healthier the nation the less is spent on healthcare and everyone wins.

Label reading needs to be taught in schools. If you have never been told that four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon how would you know? If you don’t know that the label only talks about one serving how would you know what is in the entire bottle?

If this was any other epidemic there would be no question that Governments would act to protect not only the citizens but to safeguard against bankruptcy and escalating healthcare costs. 

Governments need to become bold. Taxes need to be imposed on sugary drinks. Physical activity needs to become a daily activity in schools. 

What will it take before change happens? Do we have to wait until there is no more money or do we act now while we still
can?
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