Dateline Southeast Asia

Age causing diabetes to soar in Singapore; some groups not managing it

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Age causing diabetes to soar in Singapore; some groups not managing it

Related tags Food Nutrition Singapore

Age making diabetes rates soar in Singapore; Indians and Malays not managing condition properly

Indians and Malays in Singapore are not doing enough to manage their diabetes at a time when the country is witnessing lightning acceleration in new cases of the disease.

Researching the trends displayed by the diabetic patients its four hospitals treated between 2010 and 2013, National Healthcare Group (NHG) found the number of cases over that period had jumped by 14%. 

This could be due to differences in dietary habits, which could also be linked to the higher incidence of obesity in the Malay and Indian community, its doctors have speculated.

Perhaps the Malay and Indian lifestyle in terms of food could have more carbohydrates and even cholesterol that leads to poorer glycemic control​,” Dr Matthias Toh, one of NHG’s physicians, told Straits Times​ after the study showed that only 70% of Malay and Indian patients had been able to maintain good haemoglobin levels.

By comparison, 81% of the group’s Chinese patients had succeeded in keeping these within the recommended 8%.

This, along with the sharp rise in new cases, is a worrying trend for Singapore, one of the world’s fastest ageing countries.

Since 2012, 900,000 so-called Baby Boomers—more than a quarter of the current population of Singaporeans—are reaching retirement age. At current birth rates, the median age of citizens will rise to 47 in 2030 from 39 in 2011.

Currently, 20% of NHG patients aged between 70 and 74 have diabetes, compared to just 3.6% of those between 40 and 44 years old. Among those aged below 40, under 2% have diabetes.

"We expect that the overall proportion of diabetic patients will increase further as our population grows older​," added Toh.

Filipino farmers told to look on Asean integration as a patriotic duty

Proceso Alcala

Regional economic integration should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat, the government has told Filipino farmers.

The free movement of goods and services in the Asean Economic Community will bring lower costs and value-adding agricultural techniques as agriculture in the Philippines becomes more competitive against its neighbours, Secretary Proceso Alcala of Department of Agriculture said.

"With the Philippines being free from trans-boundary animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease and zoonotic diseases such as HPAI, the country remains an attractive trading partner, and exporter of processed meat products​," Alcala said. 

By pledging government assistance to help the industry boost food standards to international levels, the government hopes it will entrepreneurs to develop the Filipino food industry, with homegrown brands gaining an international profile for the country.

Reassurances in the Philippines mirror similar charm campaigns by other governments in the region.

Nguyen Cam Tu, a minister in Vietnam’s trade ministry, for example, told companies this week that the government would work with them to pave the way for tighter integration.

Indonesia replaces Malaysia on FAO’s council

Indonesia has been reappointed as a member of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation council. 

The reappointment was approved by the FAO’s 119 member countries and sees Indonesia replacing Malaysia on the council between 2015-2018. Malaysia had taken Indonesia’s place in 2012.

Secretary-general of Indonesia’s agriculture ministry, Hari Priyono, said it was important for Indonesia to be reappointed to the council as it would give opportunities for Indonesia to contribute more in the formulation of new policies concerning global food security. 

Calls for dieticians in Filipino schools to combat growing obesity

The leading nutritionists’ association in the Philippines, the NDAP, called for dieticians to be employed to assess the food being served by schools and work with canteens by recommending healthy options.

NDAP president Adela Jamorabo-Ruiz said: “There should be an organised monitoring of food served in school canteens to make sure the dietary requirements of students are met​.” 

Weight is a growing issue in the Philippines, where national data showed that 29.9% of Filipino adults were overweight and obese in 2013.

The Philippines Department of Education has issued a directive to all public schools to sell only nutrient-rich and fortified food in canteens.

Opinions divided on looming Philippines sugar tax

It if is made law, the ad valorem​ tax is predicted to yield PHP343bn (US$7.6bn) in revenues. The Bill is now waiting for approval from parliament.

The IMF resident representative said the sweetened beverages Bill would be visibly successful policy if lawmakers vote it in.

It would be seen generally as a good government measure for better [health] outcomes and also more revenues,​” said Shanaka Jayanath Peiris.

The author of the BIll, Estrellita B. Suansing, based it on the World Health Organisation assessment that raising prices by 20% would reduce consumption by 24%.

According to the terms of the Bill, the levy, which would add P2.50 (US$0.06) to a standard 250ml bottled drink, would be on top of the 12% VAT already imposed on consumer goods. A year after the tax comes in to force in 2016, a further 4% tax will be added each subsequent year.

Half of the revenues would go to the Philippines’ general fund, while the other half will be distributed to health programmes research and development agencies, as well as being used to improve access to potable water in rural areas.

The Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines is opposed to the new tax measure, calling it “unnecessary and unreasonable​”.

It says its introduction would also increase production costs, which would in turn harm the livelihoods of sugar farmers, millers and other industry workers.

Taxation is the wrong policy tool to address obesity and other related health issues​,” the BIAP said in a position paper submitted to Congress after the sugar tax was proposed in December.

There is no scientific evidence which shows a direct correlation between soft drink consumption and obesity rates. On a mean one-day per-capita food consumption by food groups in the Philippines, calories from sugar and syrup constitute only 1.9% of total food intake​.”

Islamic eating would stave off food insecurity

M. Jusuf Kalla was referring to the problem of wastage, and how the direction the government should take to commodity imports is dependent on the amount of food that is wasted.

If people consume their food without wastage, no food imports will be required​,” he said.

As much as 25% of the world’s food is not consumed. If food is not wasted, there will be no starvation in the world. We won’t need to import rice if wastage is avoided​.”

On an Islamic approach to eating, Kalla told an environmental conference in Jakarta: “If everyone eats following Islamic guidelines, or those implemented in restaurants in Padang, the world will not starve​.

We are taught to eat without wasting food. In accordance with the principles followed in restaurants in Padang, we pay only for the meal eaten, while the rest is sold again​.”

The city in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province has a tradition whereby people consume small portions of food.

HCMC told to get tough on ‘failing’ food officials

The Vietnam Food Administration ordered Ho Chi Minh City’s health officials to probe the actions of individual inspectors in one of its districts who it alleges were negligent in allowing a manufacturer of beef balls, pork bologna, Chinese sausage, hot dog and fish balls without certificates of food safety without any inspections.

The agencies responsible have been told they must issue harsh penalties to transgressors, and these should be publicised in the media.

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