SINGAPORE - An estimated 19,000 people are diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes each year, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 26).
Mr Amrin also said his ministry expects more diabetic patients in the short term because there is better access to health screening and Singaporeans are more aware of the importance of early detection and the potential complications of diabetes if left uncontrolled.
He was responding to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) who asked for the annual figures of diabetes cases diagnosed in the past five years.
Mr Amrin said that there are many existing initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of developing diabetes and delaying the onset of complications in those who already have the disease.
But it will take years before both the overall incidence of diabetes and its complication rate decrease, he said.
Diabetes is caused by having too much sugar in the blood.
Type 1 diabetes is genetic and unpreventable. It occurs because the pancreas naturally does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes, related to weight management, is caused by lifestyle factors such as alcohol intake and a lack of exercise.
According to the latest available National Population Health Survey, 8.6 per cent of Singapore residents had diabetes in 2017.
Dr Intan also asked when the measures to reduce Singaporeans' sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages would be implemented.
In October 2019, the MOH said it had consulted the public and industry players over eight weeks starting December 2018 on four proposed measures to cut the consumption of high-sugar drinks.
The four measures were mandatory front-of-pack labelling, regulation on advertising, a sugar tax, and a ban on high-sugar sweetened beverages.
The ministry said then that it planned to implement two of the measures: mandatory front-of-pack labelling indicating the health value of the drink, and the ban on advertising drinks in the very unhealthy category. It said the other two measures needed more study.
Mr Amrin said on Wednesday that details of the two measures and their implementation timelines would be shared in the upcoming debate in Parliament on the ministries' budgets.
Dr Intan also asked whether these two measures will be extended to drinks such as bubble tea, coffee, tea and syrup-based drinks served at buffets or eateries.
Responding, Mr Amrin said freshly prepared drinks like bubble tea and blended coffee form a third of Singaporeans' sugar intake from drinks and data suggests that it is a growing source.
The ministry is currently considering whether to extend the labelling and advertising regulations to these drinks and it is consulting stakeholders such as the food and beverage industry, he said.