Letter of the day

Focus on obesity and smoking to win war on diabetes

This month marks the fifth year since the Ministry of Health declared war on diabetes. While the war is ongoing, we should be mindful that it cannot be won without winning the battles against obesity and smoking in Singapore.

Almost four in 10 Singaporeans are overweight or obese, which substantially contributes to the prevalence of diabetes in Singapore. Obesity is said to account for 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The battle with the bulge ought to take primacy in the war on diabetes. Vague messages such as encouraging a healthy lifestyle or eating less white rice are missing the forest for the trees.

Smoking as another major contributory factor for diabetes is conspicuously missing in public health messaging. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, smokers are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than non-smokers, as smoking causes insulin resistance.

Not only is smoking strongly linked to diabetes, but second-hand smoke also greatly boosts diabetes risk.

The reticence in our public health education regarding the relationship between tobacco smoke and diabetes weakens our efforts to combat diabetes.

Furthermore, current protection against residential second-hand smoke exposure is non-existent.

The next phase in the war on diabetes should focus on these major contributors to the risk of developing diabetes.

Lim Teck Koon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2021, with the headline 'Focus on obesity and smoking to win war on diabetes'. Subscribe