Diabetes rates quadrupling, World Health Organization reports

by | Apr 7, 2016 | Life

Jessenia Feijo

Today, sugar is in almost everything.

It’s in ketchup, canned foods, soft drinks and even bread. And now, the UN health agency is calling for stepped-up measures to reduce risk factors for diabetes and improve treatment and care.

The Worth Health Organization reported Wednesday that diabetes rates quadrupling to 422 million people in 2014,

“It is true; we do have an epidemic of diabetes in Canada,” said Pamela Fergusson, a registered nutritionist in Toronto. But sugary foods aren’t the only causes, she said.

And she’s right.

The UN report said the world has seen a nearly four-fold increase in diabetes cases over the last quarter-century, driven by excessive weight, obesity, aging and population growth.

In other words, Fergusson said that sugar isn’t the only culprit.

“We should be making healthy choices easier, not unhealthy choices” – Pamela Fergusson 

Having items like chocolate bars and chips at the cash register while waiting your turn to pay, encourages over consumption to added sugars by making impulse purchases.

The way Fergusson explains it is that these items have a lot of calories that give energy right away but don’t have a lot of other calories that the person consuming will be getting benefits from, like protein, vitamins and minerals.

“These items shouldn’t be something we see in our diets very often, it should be something we see occasionally,” said Fergusson.

Fergusson supports companies like Indigo in  removing chocolate treats at checkout counters in the battle to limit sugar intake, and she isn’t the only one.

Humber student Jennifer Amaya applauds the initiative.

“I mean I can’t lie, I am one of those people who will buy a Reese’s Pieces, with no intention of it while walking to the cash register. There should be more options. Obviously healthier ones,” said Amaya.

Fergusson, for one, would love to see junk food being moved out of these places, like Shoppers Drug Mart and Indigo, and replaced with fresh fruits, vegetables, fruit salad or even a plain salad.

“In France, gas stations have fresh fruits and vegetables and not huge chocolate bars,” Fergusson said.

It’s simple, Fergusson explains: big stores should be moving out of selling “convenient food.”

“We should be making healthy choices easier, not unhealthy choices,” Fergusson said.

Another message that Fergusson wants to make clear would be not to confuse added sugar and natural sugars.

“I feel strongly that we shouldn’t be avoiding fruit because it comes with fibre that is a package that nature has produced. Don’t turn away from natural sugars. Be conscious of these empty calories since they are not providing nutrition,” she said.

Khosrow Adeli, University of Toronto Department Head and Professor in Clinical Biochemistry, told Humber News on Thursday that the best approach to prevent damaging effects of dietary sugar is to reduce the intake of food containing fructose.

“Table sugar contains 50 per cent fructose and 50 per cent glucose. Current scientific evidence indicates that fructose intake is the problem, associated with weight gain and development of diabetes,” he said.

“A small amount of fructose taken daily from fruits is not the problem. The problem is the high intake of fructose-containing fast foods such as soft drinks, cereals, sweets, etc. The total daily intake of fructose should be kept under 50 grams per day maximum,” said Adeli.

Adeli also has some tips on understanding the difference between natural and added sugars:

  • One can of soft drink has 25 grams of fructose and fruit juices are also high in fructose content.
  • It’s best to avoid or reduce intake of soft drinks and fruit juices and better to eat whole fruits.
  • Normal fruit intake only provides about 16 grams of fructose per day which is not a problem.