Healthy eating keeps diabetes at bay

By Byron Mutingwende


A healthy, nutritious diet with minimised consumption of starch-rich foodstuffs will keep diabetes at bay, Dr. John Mangwiro, the President of the Zimbabwe Diabetic Association (ZDA) has said.


Mangwiro made the remarks during the commemoration of the World Diabetes Day held in the Harare Central Business District on 14 November 2017. The commemorations were held under the theme, “Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future.”


“Type 2 diabetes is mostly caused by lifestyle, eating habits and a lack of physical activity. I encourage people to avoid eating large quantities of foodstuffs rich in starch. Starch increases blood sugar levels in our bodies. People should avoid eating large amounts of sadza, milk, fruit juices and fatty foodstuffs like meat,” Mangwiro said.


Mangwiro said that one in 10 people in Zimbabwe are living with diabetes but the majority lacks knowledge about the condition. He revealed that those under 30 years of age are on Type 1 while those over 30 years are on Type 2 diabetes.


The medical expert debunked the notion largely held by society to the effect that growing bulky was a sign of wealth.


“People should avoid getting obese. We often hear our mothers saying their children are now living large when they see them with bulging stomachs. It is also considered a taboo for wealthy people to walk instead of driving all the time. For obese people, fats end up accumulating in the liver and heart resulting in kidney and heat failure. There is also a need to avoid refined food and eating too much fat and protein in meat since this leads to diabetes. Diabetic women are three times more prone to breast cancer while the women who would have reached menopause are 20 times more prone to cancer. Over 95% of diabetes cases is caused by food type consumed and a lack of activity,” Mangwiro said.


Speaking on the same occasion, Mirriam Chikukwa, the Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province bemoaned the devastating consequences of diabetes on women and girls.


“I am reliably informed that currently there is over 199 million women living with diabetes worldwide and this total is projected to increase to 330 million by 2040. Furthermore in Zimbabwe, 1083 people out of every 100 000 are living with diabetes. This indeed is a cause for alarm and there is need to take into consideration the gender roles and power dynamics, as they influence vulnerability to diabetes, affect access to health services and health seeking behavior for women, and amplify the impact of diabetes on women. Approximately 175 000 Zimbabweans die from diabetes mellitus complications every year, and sadly over half of these are women,” Chikukwa said.

Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2, 1 million deaths each year. As a result of socio-economic conditions, girls and women with diabetes experience barriers in accessing cost-effective diabetes prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care, particularly in developing countries.


“Socio-economic inequalities expose women to the main risk factors of diabetes, including poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco consumption and harmful use of alcohol,” Chikukwa said.


The minister bemoaned the fact that two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age, accounting for over 60 million worldwide.


“Without pre-conception planning, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can result in significantly higher risk of maternal and child mortality and morbidity. One in seven deaths is affected by gestational diabetes – a severe and neglected threat to maternal and child health.


“Many women with gestational diabetes experience pregnancy related complications including high blood pressure, large birth weight babies and obstructed labour. A significant number of women with gestational diabetes also go on to develop Type 2 diabetes resulting in further healthcare complications and costs.”