Global diabetes expert cautions Africa on pandemic

An estimated 6.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes, a number expected to rise sharply. International diabetes expert Dr Geert Verhelst is currently in South Africa to present the latest research.

A staggering 300 million people worldwide have diabetes - a figure expected to rise to 438 million in 20 years with Africa set for the highest incidence of growth during this period.

These latest statistics from the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organisation will be presented by one of Europe's leading holistic practitioners on diabetes and cholesterol, Dr Geert Verhelst, during an SA seminar and media tour in August 2011.

Dr Verhelst will also reveal the results of recent studies which show a direct association between sugar and diabetes. Until recently, the medical world did not strongly connect the use of sugar with the development of diabetes type 2.

In South Africa, Dr Verhelst will present to the health industry and the public on the latest research into, and holistic preventative measures for diabetes, Syndrome X and high cholesterol. He will also host Health24's Diabetes Expert Forum on 4 and 5 August 2011.

Belgium-based Dr Verhelst is in demand in Europe for his holistic approach to preventing and treating diabetes and high cholesterol levels. He is a trained physician, having qualified as an MD in 1984, a medical homoeopath and an author.  His most prominent work is the acclaimed Dutch "Groot Handbook Geneeskrachtige Planten”, widely regarded as the authority on medicinal plants in parts of Europe.

Dr Verhelst is also a sought after scientific consultant in the development, legislation and registration of food supplements based on medicinal plants and nutrients. He is a medical journalist for several European periodicals, and lectures in Phytotherapy at the Levensschool in Tongerlo, Belgium.

His presentations in South Africa will focus on:

Diabetes - a wakeup call for the world in general and Africa in particular

  • Worldwide, approximately 300 million people have diabetes (285 million in 2010) with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) predicting that by 2030 this number will rise to 438 million.
  • The IDF predicts the greatest increase will be in Africa (27% growth, pushing predictions to over 20 million people living with diabetes in 2030) and the Eastern Mediterranean (25%).
  • The foundation predicts that within 16 years, the incidence of diabetes diagnosis will equal current rates of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The World Health Organisation also predicts that Africa will show the highest growth in diabetes worldwide.

Sugar: the key role player

  • Until recently, the medical world did not strongly connect the use of sugar with the development of diabetes type 2. Now, studies show a direct association between the intake of fructose and insulin resistance, the stage before diabetes type 2. Refined sugar, or sucrose, consists of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Refined sugar used in many soft drinks (high fructose corn syrup 55) comprises 55% fructose and 42% glucose. So, in a good diabetes diet, sugar and other refined sources of fructose (not fruit) should be avoided. 

The growing importance of HbA1C (glycosylated hemoglobin)

  • Most health professionals only look at blood glucose levels to evaluate diabetes. While blood glucose is a momentary look at sugar levels (and is directly influenced by meals, stress, exertion, etc, glycosylated hemoglobin or HbA1C is an indicator of the average blood sugar concentrations over  previous months and providesa better indication of how diabetes is being managed.
  • This test method is increasingly proving to be an important co-factor in the evaluation and treatment of diabetes. All the measures taken in case of diabetes (diet, weight loss, medication, food supplements, etc) should lead to a lower HbA1C.
  • Dr Verhelst will also highlight how cinnamon can help decrease HbA1C 

Most type 2 diabetes sufferers undiagnosed

Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that a staggering 6.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes. Between 5 –10% of these have type 1 diabetes which is characterised by an almost total lack of insulin production required by the body to use glucose found in food.

Between 90 – 95% of South African diabetes sufferers have type 2 diabetes and most are undiagnosed (astonishingly, only 8 000 of these estimated 6.5 million are registered with Diabetes SA). 

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by low insulin production, often resulting in weight gain and sometimes leading to heart attack, kidney failure, impotence, blindness and amputation.

Although there are no official figures, high levels of oxidised (bad) cholesterol is also a major problem among adult South Africans, contributing to high levels of heart disease.

Dr Verhelst’s presentations will outline the latest in natural approaches to treating diabetes and high cholesterol and will detail steps to help prevent diabetes and high cholesterol.

(Source: OTH Pharma SA press release and Health24)

Guest diabetes expert on Health24:

Dr Geert Verhelst will be hosting Health24's Diabetes Expert Forum on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th August 2011. Health24 users are invited to post any diabetes-related questions that they may have. Questions will within the next few days.

- (Health24, July 2011)

Read more:

Diabetes: Africa's hidden pandemic
Diabetes, TB and HIV/Aids
Diabetes doubled since 1980

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
29% - 9758 votes
71% - 24094 votes