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People living with diabetes can eat any food- Experts say

Considering health benefits of consuming foods rich in vitamins and minerals such as fruits, whole grain and vegetables, Nigerians living with diabetes should stop limiting themselves to only beans and unripe plantain but can eat any locally available and culturally acceptable food in moderation.

This is because, there is no special diet for diabetes, and there is nothing like diabetes diet, say experts.

Contrary to the common notion that diabetes is caused by excessive consumption of sugar or certain types of foods, experts have revealed that it is not sugar or foods that cause diabetes.

They made this assertion in Lagos at a Capacity Building Workshop on Diabetes for Health Journalists to commemorate the 2017 World Diabetes Day with the theme, “Women and Diabetes —Our Right to a Healthy Future’’.

The workshop which had the theme, “Equipping Present-day Journalists for Effective Reporting of Diabetes’’, was organised by Sanofi Aventis Pharma Nigeria, a global healthcare organisation to help journalists have better understanding and accurately report issues around diabetes in order to increase public understanding about the condition.

According to the experts, diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to manage glucose and not by too much sugar consumption nor foods; they added that a diabetic can eat everything.

Diabetes, World Health Organisation (WHO) says, is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Demystifying some of the myths surrounding the disease -especially in the area of nutrition, an Endocrinologist and Senior Lecturer, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr Ifedayo Odeniyi, noted that diabetes is a problem with the body’s handling of glucose.

Odeniyi explained: “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 foods 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 we eateba’,fufu’ foods prepared from cassava, rice and others, the body changes them to glucose.”

He called on Nigerians living with diabetes to come out of the ignorance of consuming only beans, unripe plantain and wheat and embrace every healthy diet.

“We have often heard that the diet of diabetics should be beans and unripe plantain, but that is not correct. There is no special diet for diabetes, and there is nothing like diabetes diet. A diabetic can eat everything”, he maintained.

Odeniyi further revealed that the erroneous consumption of only beans and unripe plantain by those living with diabetes have closed their eyes to rich available food in our environment.

“They are even denied meat. Unfortunately, some doctors say diabetic patients should be on beans, but beans is not protein, it is actually 60 per cent carbohydrate, while even plantain is 70 per cent carbohydrate. “The diabetic should eat everything in moderation”, he stated.

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, he stressed, affirming that healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use are ways to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Beside nutrition, Odeniyi urged those diagnosed of diabetes to seek early and proper treatment from qualified medical practitioners.

He however identified oily foods, butter, dairy products, carbonated drinks, alcohol, sweets, sucrose, salty and fast foods as some of the things to avoid.

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

Agbolade pointed out that as at 2015, it was 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 sugar levels throughout the day.

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

The World Diabetes Day is marked annually on November 14 to raise awareness about the way the health problem affects people on a global scale.

The main objective of this year’s theme: “Women and Diabetes —Our Right to a Healthy Future’’, is to promote the importance of affordable and equitable access to medical care for all women. ”

According to statistics from International Diabetes Federation (IDF) , there are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes and this total is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040.

Angela Onwuzoo (DailyTimes)

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