An Analysis by Lilian U. Okoro, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The World Diabetes Day is celebrated on Nov. 14 every year to highlight the prevalence of diabetes and its impact, and to educate people on lifestyle habits that could curb its prevalence.
The World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations day in 2006 after it was established by the International Diabetes Federation in 1991, with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In Nigeria, WHO estimates cases of diabetes to be 4.3 per cent with its prevalence attributed majorly to lifestyle changes caused by urbanisation.
The disease is also linked to industries that produce unhealthy diets, sugar-sweetened drinks, tobacco use as well as harmful use of alcohol and lack of exercise.
Diabetes is a non-communicable disease associated with increased level of glucose due to inadequate supply of insulin (known as Type 1 diabetes) or inability to use insulin efficiently (known as Type 2 diabetes).
Though the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown, the probable causes are genetics and environmental factors (such as exposure to viruses). On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes is largely linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Diabetes remained a risk factor for most of the health conditions including cancer, blood pressure, erectile dysfunction and impotency.
In Nigeria, many people are believed to be living with diabetes and the country’s diabetes prevalence rate is one of the highest in Africa.
The prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) is increasing worldwide, and it is projected that by the year 2030 over 500 million adults will be affected by DM.
A Medical Imaging Scientist, Dr Livinus Abonyi, said the increase could be as a result of urbanisation and aging of the population.
He explained that DM increased with advancing age, saying that this could be because aging was often accompanied by decline in lean body mass and increase in body fat, particularly visceral adiposity (overweight), which may contribute to the development of insulin resistance.
Abonyi, who heads the Department of Radiography, University of Lagos, said the prevalence of DM was still lower in rural areas than urban communities due to the sophisticated lifestyle practiced in the urban cities.
Abonyi, who said diabetes could be hereditary in nature, identified corruption, greed and lack of regulation as major contributory factors of the disease burden in Nigeria.
According to him, some few agencies of government responsible for these regulatory functions are crippled by corruption, while individuals involved in the production of such substandard products are driven by greed.
He said producers of substandard products did not have conscience, love or regards for the effect the products might have on their fellow citizens that fell victim to their inordinate quest for wealth.
“No sane nation leaves her citizens to consume all kinds of food and drug products without effective regulation.
“In Nigeria, all kinds of drinks, noodles and food products are in circulation and freely consumed by the citizens without proper quality assurance and approval for consumption.
“Aside the hereditary nature of diabetes, self-medication is another factor that is promoting high incidence of diabetes in Nigeria; there is a wide pervading attitude of self-medication in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, an average Nigerian prescribes one type of drug or the other to the next neighbour, colleague or relation who complains of any illness, without proper investigation or diagnosis.
“The effect of this attitude applies to even to fetuses, growing children and adults.
“No doubt, this attitude affects major organs of the body which helps the body in carrying out its metabolic functions effectively. These organs begin to fail early in life leading to diabetes,” Abonyi said.
The medical imaging scientist further lamented that many Nigerian citizens were reckless in their eating habit in the bid to demonstrate affluence and class.
According to him, their nutritional habit is based on personal want instead of personal need.
“Many Nigerians eat wrongly. They eat whatever they like in quantity and quality without recourse to the long time health implications.
“People eat as a ‘status symbol.’ This attitude accounts for high incidence of childhood obesity among the children of the rich and middle class in Nigeria,” Abonyi added.
On the remedial measures in curbing the incidence of diabetes among the Nigerian population, Abonyi advised that the Nigerian leadership and the citizens had to do away with corruption.
He said genuine declaration of war against corruption has to be instituted and examplarily demonstrated by government leaders.
This, he said, would go a long way to strengthen regulations, build trust in the system and reduce criminality of production or importation of fake substandard goods.
Abonyi also said efforts should be made by the government agencies, non-governmental bodies, public health experts, health care practitioners, associations and the media in educating citizens on the best nutritional habits and practices.
“Corruption kills citizens if the citizens do not t kill corruption in their system. Citizens should learn to surrender themselves to experts in registered hospitals when sick.
“In order to make this practicable, the current National Health Insurance Act should come into full operation; this act has made health insurance compulsory for everyone,” Abonyi said.
On her part, Dr Bolanle Okunowo, an Endocrinologist with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), urged Nigerians to cultivate healthy eating habit.
Okunowo, also a consultant physician, said people should reduce the intake of refined diet and increase the intake of diet high in fiber.
According to her, there is also need to reduce high caloric diet which can lead to obesity causing insulin resistance.
The endocrinologist stressed the need for regular medical checkup, saying that if a routine checkup showed prediabetes, it could be reverted to normal glucose with the help of good medical advice and treatment.
“Exercise regularly and avoid sedentary lifestyle. Avoid smoking and reduce or avoid alcohol use including energy drinks,” Okunowo said.
On the role the government could play in reducing the burden of diabetes among the populace, Okunowo suggested that the government should increase tax on high sugar/energy drinks and reduce tax on low or no sugar drinks to discourage intake of high caloric drinks.
She also suggested the need for health education using various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Podcast, radio and television.
“There should be spacious playing grounds in schools to encourage exercise and adequate physical activity. This would help to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.
“Similarly, there’s need for availability of affordable health care system to encourage early screening for diabetes mellitus and treatment for those living with DM,” Okunowo said. (NANFeatures) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Dianabasi Effiong/Salif Atojoko