Identify if Western diet has contributed to rise in diabetes

The fight against diabetes is, first and foremost, a fight against carbohydrates ("Diabetes: The rice you eat is worse than sugary drinks"; last Friday). We can consume only so much sugar, but our addiction to carbohydrates can be limitless.

Taxes on sugar will work if used as an adjunct to better education for the citizenry in general, and improved incentives for regular medication and lifestyle changes for diabetics in particular ("Sugar tax may not be best weapon in war on diabetes" by Mr Chan Yeow Chuan; last Friday).

Just as cheap cars and subsidised petrol lead to exuberant and chaotic consumption, which can be limited by our system of punitive ownership and usage taxes, so can sugar consumption be moderated by a structured tariff.

Sugar levies can be used justifiably to subsidise a healthier diet.

But it seems almost impossible to impose a tax on staples like rice.

Curiously, the rise in diabetic rates among Asians is concurrent with the adoption of a Western dairy- and meat-based diet.

It has been postulated in some studies that the consumption of meat with rice presents increased stress to the pancreas, so that both the exocrine and endocrine parts of this organ are presented with unnecessary double duty simultaneously, leading to failure of appropriate insulin secretion, thereby resulting in diabetes.

Even if carbohydrates and sugar are culpable as the main culprits in causing diabetes, it behooves us to identify the weapons of accessory they wield to cause disease.

Establishing a stronger causal relationship will help immensely in our war on diabetes.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Identify if Western diet has contributed to rise in diabetes'. Print Edition | Subscribe