Address problematic behaviour to tackle diabetes

Many kids grow up consuming chocolate milk, flavoured yogurt drinks and soft drinks.

Their palate has been primed to prefer such sweetened beverages rather than plain water.

Instead of just having mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labels, the amount of sugar in a drink also needs to be expressed as a percentage of the daily recommended added sugar intake based on the World Health Organisation's standard of 25g to show the impact of having the drink.

Besides tackling sugary drinks, the health authorities may also want to address problematic behaviours and situations which precipitate them.

First, Singaporeans' love for all-you-can-eat buffets. Studies should be conducted on the average amount of calories, sugar, saturated fat and sodium consumed at buffets, which surely exceeds the recommended daily intake.

Second, the habit of unhealthy snacking. For example, educate people to replace cookies containing high amounts of saturated fat and sugar with unsalted, baked nuts and plain yogurt.

Third, overeating when overseas and during festive seasons. Many people eat to their heart's content when enticed with food that cannot be found in Singapore, but are unable to lose the weight gained on return.

Festive seasons are another time when people just want to let their hair down and worry about the consequences later.

This is how we as a nation are getting heavier and unhealthier and end up consuming more healthcare resources.

Fourth, educate people on the acceptable waist circumference for Asian men - below 90cm - and women - below 80cm - to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Diabetes and obesity are closely related, so the two diseases should be dealt with as a whole.

Liu I-Chun (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'Address problematic behaviour to tackle diabetes'. Print Edition | Subscribe