We must fight back against sugar

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Dr Nina Byrnes

Ireland is grappling with sugar addiction. If we don’t wean ourselves off it, we risk an uncontrollable Type 2 diabetes epidemic affecting hundreds of thousands of people. This will put immense financial and infrastructural pressure on our health service.

Beyond tooth decay, headaches, mood swings and upset stomachs, long-term, unmoderated sugar consumption can lead to serious conditions like obesity. Obesity, in turn, can lead to heart disease, liver disease, cancers of the digestive system and Type 2 diabetes. I see this on a regular basis in my practice.

Type 2 diabetes, which impairs the body’s ability to create the hormone insulin, is on the rise in Ireland. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition caused by genetic and environmental factors, Type 2 diabetes is caused, in the main, by an unhealthy diet with poor food and drink choices, and sedentary lifestyles.

In 2015, the International Diabetes Federation released some startling statistics. That year, 171,800 Irish adults, or more than 5.5 percent of the population, were found to have the disease, and more than 1,200 died from it or diabetes-related diseases. The findings also estimated that almost 65,000 people were living with undiagnosed diabetes.

The prognosis for 2017 and beyond does not look much better. Irish men already have the highest BMI in Europe and Irish women the third. According to the World Health Organisation, we are on course to become Europe’s most obese country by 2030. Obesity, as we know, is the perfect kindling for Type 2 diabetes.

I am delighted to be supporting LloydsPharmacy’s diabetes awareness campaign as it is vital that people are educated on the adverse effects of sugar, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and diet, and the importance of screening for diabetes.

As part of the initiative, LloydsPharmacy conducted a survey on attitudes to diabetes and sugar consumption among 1000 Irish people over the age of 16. The survey revealed some shocking trends.

80 percent of Irish adults do not know their daily recommended sugar intake, and almost half never check the sugar content of their food. 37 percent eat sugary confectionery on a daily basis, and 18 percent admit to drinking soft drinks—which are laden with sugar—every day.

Children and young adults are at high risk of developing obesity and developing lifestyle diseases like Type 2 diabetes. Primary and secondary school pupils need continuous education in healthy eating and exercise, but particularly the latter who have far more personal control over their own nutrition. It must be made crystal clear to them that crisps and cans of Coca-Cola cannot be consumed on a daily basis without detrimental health effects. Government-supported initiatives are essential in this area.

Thankfully, when Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, it can be treated with a mixture of diet, exercise and medication. Most diabetic patients lead perfectly healthy lives. Prevention is, of course, preferable, and in high-risk individuals, diabetes can be staved off with lifestyle changes, like frequent exercise, dietary modification and weight loss. In addition, the HSE also recommends limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking.

Colleagues at 84 LloydsPharmacy stores nationwide have received extensive training from Diabetes Ireland to help support those at risk and living with diabetes.

For more information or if you are concerned about developing diabetes, call into your local LloydsPharmacy store.

 

LloydsPharamcy diabetes information events

To help customers understand, prevent and manage diabetes, LloydsPharmacy will be hosting four information events in pharmacies nationwide in partnership with Diabetes Ireland and bestselling author Jules Coll. Diabetes Ireland will also provide free diabetes screening before each event. The events are free to attend, and all are welcome.

 

LloydsPharmacy, Blackrock, Co Dublin – 7 February at 6 pm

Free diabetes screening 2pm-6pm

LloydsPharmacy, Ballincollig, Co Cork – 28 February at 6:30 pm

Free diabetes screening 2pm-6pm

LloydsPharmacy, Northside Shopping Centre, Dublin 17 – 7 March at 6 pm

Free diabetes screening 2pm-6pm

LloydsPharmacy, Castletroy, Co Limerick – 21 March at 7:30 pm

Free diabetes screening 3pm-7pm

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