Fight diabetes? Get more people to drink plain water

I have doubts about how meaningful it is to introduce products with a specific "Suitable for diabetics" label because there is the risk of over-consumption (Too many products are 'healthier choice', by Mr Jonathan Wong Wai Kheong; Sept 15).

The sugar tax approach is passive and ineffective since sugar is not the sole reason for obesity and diabetes.

Healthy lifestyle, moderate sugar intake and regular exercise help.

Healthier Choice labels simply mean the products contain lower levels of "negative" nutrients and more "positive" nutrients. Caveat emptor still applies when you purchase the drink.

It is better to spark a social behavioural change to abstain from or reduce consumption of sugary drinks.

Perhaps the best alternative is plain water.

Professor Chia Kee Seng, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, projected that 34 per cent of people aged 24 to 35 could become diabetic by the time they reach 65 (Rising obesity among young set to worsen diabetes rate in Singapore; Feb 22, 2016).

The grim picture reflects the necessity of changing eating habits in our stressful lifestyle to wean people off the desire for sweet drinks.

Government intervention is necessary if we want to prevent the number of diabetics from rising.

Plain water is the best drink to quench thirst.

Drinking two litres daily will help flush our system.

Once we get used to the flavour of plain water, soft drinks and sweet beverages would become the second choice.

Healthy eating habits are an effective remedy against obesity and diabetes.

This requires parallel adjustments to the social environment to gain momentum for plain water drinking.

Hawker centres, foodcourts and restaurants need to cooperate to provide bottled water at low cost.

The Government should mandate that sufficient drinking fountains be installed at shopping malls, bus terminals and MRT stations.

Collective efforts and government support are necessary to rein in obesity and diabetes and develop the right social attitude to imbibe this healthy culture.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Fight diabetes? Get more people to drink plain water'. Print Edition | Subscribe