KZN battling diabetes

2015-09-21 09:02

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KWAZULU-NATAL has earned itself a reputation as a sugary cesspit of fizzy drinks and sweet treats and holds the title for having highest prevalence of diabetes in the country.

South Africans meanwhile have also been assessed to be the fattest nation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This according to various recent reports that have been released ahead of official statistics that are due in November, and which experts believe will show even higher rates of obesity and diabetes throughout the country.

According to reports compiled by Statistics South Africa, deaths caused by diabetes mellitus have been increasing year-on-year since 2010.

In 2012 some 21 230 people (4,4% of natural deaths) died from the illness.

A report published by the South African Medical Research Council showed a diabetes prevalence of 5,9% in women and 3,1% in men living in KZN, the highest combined figures throughout the country.

Fuelling the diabetes statistics are alarming rates of obesity in the country.

Recent figures released by the National Department of Health indicate that one out of three women over the age of 15 years is categorised as obese; figures much higher than the prevalence in men (11%).

Michael Brown, from the Centre of Disease and Endocrinology in Houghton, who quoted the South African National Health andamp; Nutrition Examination Survey (Sanhanes) results released in 2013, said that nine out of 10 South Africans view their ideal body image as “fat”.

“Previous studies have shown that many South Africans, particularly black women, associate obesity with well-being and wealth, while stigmas in traditional belief systems still associate losing weight with HIV and TB infection, thus intensifying the problem,” Brown said.

According to Brown, the country has seen a “massive westernisation” of eating patterns in the last two decades.

“Fast food outlets have flourished and the youth have shunned healthy traditional eating habits, preferring to identify their personal brands with the brands of industrially produced foods and drinks,” he said.

However, some retailers have jumped onto the health bandwagon by removing sweets and chocolates from their checkout aisles.

Woolworths’ Kirsten Hewett said the outlet will be implementing the change in all their new stores, which will open without sweets and chocolates in the bollard queues.

“We will then implement the roll-out into our larger format stores and then down the store chain. We are in the process of engaging with customers on what alternative snack options they would like to see in the checkout aisles,” Hewett said.

The startling figures prompted KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo to call on the province to adopt healthy life­styles in order to curb the impact of obesity and non-communicable diseases like diabetes.

According to Dhlomo, every one rand spent on physical activity will save R100 on a medical bill towards non-communicable diseases.

“If young people can take up the cudgels and begin to change their sedentary lifestyles today, there would be a significant dent in the burden of diseases in future,” Dhlomo said.

Dhlomo urged all South Africans to completely avoid the causes of ill health such as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating junk food.

“They are encouraged to live a more active and health-conscious lifestyle by, in among others, participating in sport, exercise and following a healthy and balanced diet.”

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended government and community initiatives to reduce the staggering rates of diabetes and obesity in South Africa.

WHO’s technical officer for non-communicable diseases Dr Taskeen Khan said the organisation recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity daily, and low consumption of sugar, salt.

Khan said adults and children should reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than five to 10% (six teaspoons per day) of their total energy intake.

The organisation also recommended government take actions to implement policies and activities that create healthy environments.

“Such policies could include subsidies so that fruit and vegetables are available and inexpensive in communities.

“Likewise, many countries are now taxing unhealthy food such as fizzy drinks so that the prices are high and they become less accessible to children,” Khan said

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kwazulu-natal  |  illness  |  diabetes

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