War on diabetes

Learn more about what goes into the food we eat

I am sure many people will welcome the Ministry of Health's announcement that it is "waging war on diabetes" ("MOH to wage war on diabetes"; last Thursday).

It is astounding that this disease is costing Singapore $1 billion a year and that one in three people in this country is forecast to become diabetic.

As a Type 1 diabetic living in Singapore and someone actively working to promote the right decisions in managing the disease, I find that a lot of the costs currently being incurred can be avoided.

The real cost of diabetes is in treating the longer-term implications of the disease, such as blindness, amputations, heart disease and a host of other complications.

A focus on education and helping people to understand that most Type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable is surely the best way to ensure that the burden of cost from this disease can be reduced.

While this disease is by no means something only Singapore faces, the level of understanding on nutrition and healthy eating here is very much lacking.

For instance, a lot of hawker food can be very high in carbohydrate and sugar.

I often wonder if people really know what they are eating and the impact it has on their health.

There are healthy choices, even at hawker centres.

Supermarket food can also be a risk, with many manufacturers now adding more sugar to food items such as ketchup, cereals and bread.

There are simple and effective things that can be done that will provide a huge benefit to this nation's health and help to reduce the huge costs involved.

Ensuring that people understand what to look for on food labels is one such measure.

For instance, not everyone knows that carbohydrate is sugar, just by another name.

Perhaps, ensuring that there is information available about the nutritional value of each dish at hawker centres would be a good place to start.

When it comes to diabetes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Matt Pasterfield

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'Learn more about what goes into the food we eat'. Print Edition | Subscribe