14 November 2017

Nigeria: No Special Diet for Diabetes - Expert

Photo: The Citizen
A woman testing for blood sugar level.

WORRIED that many Nigerians living with diabetes are restricted to a diet of beans and unripe plantain, an endocrinologist, Dr Ifedayo Odeniyi, has stated that there is no special diet for diabetes and that persons living with the disorder are free to eat any locally available and culturally acceptable food.

Odeniyi, who is a Senior Lecturer/Honorary Consultant Endocrinologist, of the Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos/Lagos University Teaching Hospital, said it had become expedient that persons living with diabetes know their status in order to seek treatment promptly.

Speaking ahead of World Diabetes Day, November 14, at a capacity-building workshop on diabetes organised by Sanofi Aventis Pharma Nigeria, Odeniyi said the idea of a diabetes diet was a myth.

"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 avowed.

Noting that diabetes is not a death sentence and not as deadly as it is often being portrayed, Odeniyi argued that a lot of people have been put in bondage and sentenced to a life of beans and unripe plantain.

"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. When a patient came to me and said, doctor, I have lost appetite, I said there is no drug for appetite loss, that what he had is food fatigue.

"I told the patient he was tired of eating the same thing (beans and unripe plantain) over and over."

Odeniyi said a diabetic can eat any food that is locally available and culturally acceptable.

"If you are diabetic, it is essential that you eat three times a day rather than skip meals or be snacking. Some persons believe that their glucose levels will go high when they eat, but that is not so as long as they eat in moderation."

Noting the importance of exercise, Odeniyi, stated: "It is recommended that an average of 150 minutes of exercise be adopted every week or three times weekly. The gap between one exercise and the other should not be more than two days.

"Cut down on alcohol or stop it if you can. Smoking is not allowed under any circumstances for a diabetic patient. For those that are obese, a healthy diet and individualized weight reduction plan helps."

Pointing out that there are not more than 200 endocrinologists to attend to about 7-8 million diabetics in the country, Odeniyi urged that people should not underestimate the power of food in human life.

This year's theme - Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future, is a campaign to promote the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women at risk for or living with diabetes to the essential diabetes medicines and technologies, self-management education and information they require to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes and strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes.

He stressed the need for introduction of routine diabetes screening in public hospitals in the country.

There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes projected to increase to 313 million by 2040. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths each year. Socioeconomic inequalities expose women to the main risk factors of diabetes, including poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco consumption and harmful use of alcohol.

1 in 7 births is affected by gestational diabetes (GDM), a severe and neglected threat to maternal and child health. Many women with GDM experience pregnancy related complications including high blood pressure, large birth weight babies and obstructed labour. A significant number of women with GDM also go on to develop type 2 diabetes resulting in further healthcare complications and costs.

The World Diabetes Day 2017 campaign will promote the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women with diabetes or at risk to the essential diabetes medicines and technologies, self-management education and information they require to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes and strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes.

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