How to switch diabetes to feathery light sweet
Dr Pairoj Saonuam
Assistant Chief Executive Officer and Acting Director of Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Section, Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth)
“Sugar” is a silent health problem that is much overlooked. Our body will change the overconsumed carbohydrate and sugar into fat. This is when the overweight problem begins. Too much fat level in blood vessel can cause inflammatory. Prolonged health problems can cause risk of NCDs particularly diabetes. High sugar level symptoms can lead to many complicated health issues including macular abnormality, chronic kidney disease, stroke and other complications, causing a long-term impact on health, patient’s way of living and household cost.
Blood sugar low symptoms is called “Bao Waan” in Thai. The wording could mislead that it is light sweet. In reality, over 463 million global population are diagnosed each year. Of the total, four million are in Thailand. New diabetes cases tended to be on the rise. This health issue is not only caused by genetic problem, but also innutritious consumption behaviour, lacking physical activity, drinking alcohols and smoking. These risk factors lead to NCDs regarded as the cause of 3 out of 4 deaths or over 40,000 deaths/year among Thai population.
Changing lifestyle could lead to a change in consumption behavior. Thais eat foods and drink beverages having sugar contents four times higher than the maximum standard of 6 teaspoons/day as recommended by the World Health Organization.
The latest study by Mahidol University’s Institute for Population and Social Research showed that Thai people drink average over three glasses of sugary beverages per day. Among the popular sugary beverages include iced drinks like bubble tea, coffee. Without having sufficient physical activity or no exercise, consumers will gain weight from fat. This is a clear signal of diabetes.
Behavioral change can be done, depending on the determination of individual consumers. Suitable dietary plan must be calculated based on nutritional facts. ThaiHealth and partners recently initiated the “Reduce Sweets, Reduce Diseases” media campaign aimed at changing consumption behaviour and reducing sugar consumption.
Five sweet levels are categorized in a bid to encourage consumers to select ice drinks having less than two teaspoons of sugar. Teaspoon/drink is the easiest measure to inform public to what extent they can consume sugar, condensed milk, honey or syrup in order reduce sugar intake. It could be difficult at the beginning for the sweet tooth. However, the body will start getting used to the lower sugar level and the less sweet taste after three weeks.
“Food Choice” Application is an innovation developed by ThaiHealth and partners to enable everyone to simply select health-conscious foods and beverages. Users can scan barcode on food label and the sugar, sodium and fat contents will pop up. ThaiHealth has handed over the application ownership to the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), Ministry of Education to continue transferring knowledge relating to healthy food consumption to students. The application is available for free download on Appstore and GooglePlay.
In addition, ThaiHealth in collaboration with Ministry of Public Health and Mahidol University developed the “Healthier Choice” logo as a standard for certifying food and beverage products that are low in sugar, fat and salt. With cooperation from food and beverage manufacturers, sugar contents are reduced in more than 2,305 food and beverage items. The “Healthier Choice” logo will be placed on these product packages.
Amid the challenge of illnesses and deaths caused by NCDs, ThaiHealth and partners had developed two national policies on reduction of sugar consumption throughout 21 years. From health literacy enhancement to promotion of rational sugar consumption behaviour among students implemented by Ministry of Education and OBEC, these policies have been further expanded to cover 2,624 units of governmental and private sectors nationwide including less sweet coffee outlets, less sweet hospital and less sweet schools. The aim is to take age-appropriate nutritional practice into action.
I hope this information will be useful for everyone to select food choices that are less NCD-risk, and join us to fulfill Thailand’s health system development, lighten thought, invigorate inspiration and take action meet the goal of reducing illnesses and deaths premature, leading to behavioural and environmental change that is suitable for our quality of life.