Progress made in Singapore's diabetes war but obesity still an issue
Covid has led to a more sedentary lifestyle, which can negate initial results: Ong
Singapore has made progress in its war on diabetes but obesity and insufficient physical activity are still problems among the population, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday.
The prevalence of obesity in Singapore across all ages rose from 8.6 per cent in 2017 to 10.5 per cent last year, he noted.
"We have also returned to the previous level seen in 2010, after having decreases over the last decade," he said.
Singaporeans consumed on average 12 teaspoons of sugar daily, much more than what is nutritionally required, added Mr Ong, citing the 2018/2019 National Nutrition Survey.
About 19,000 people here are diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes each year.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is genetic and unpreventable. It occurs because the pancreas naturally does not produce enough insulin - a hormone that controls blood glucose levels. Type 2, related to weight management, is caused by lifestyle factors such as alcohol intake and a lack of exercise.
Mr Ong noted yesterday that Covid-19 has affected lifestyles. "For some Singaporeans, deprived of social activities, their lifestyle may have become more sedentary, which will set us back in the war on diabetes and negate the initial results."
Those with diabetes are at higher risk of developing severe Covid-19 complications and poorer health outcomes, he said at an event organised by local charity Diabetes Singapore at the Lifelong Learning Institute, to mark World Diabetes Day.
One in three individuals in Singapore is at risk of developing the disease in his lifetime, and an estimated one million Singaporeans will have diabetes by 2050 if nothing is done to mitigate the risk.
Over a quarter of the disease burden - the impact of a health problem - caused by diabetes is due to dietary risk, and half by being overweight, according to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease report for Singapore.
Mr Ong said the war on diabetes is a long one and any significant results will show up only many years later, but added that there are some initial signs of improvement.
More Singaporeans across all ages are exercising regularly for leisure - at 33.4 per cent last year, up from 29.4 per cent in 2017, he noted. In particular, the proportion of adults aged 50 to 74 who exercised regularly rose from 23.5 per cent in 2017 to 31.4 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, the retail market share of healthier food products sold in supermarkets and retail outlets increased by more than 11/2 times to 27 per cent, compared with five years ago.
The Government will also implement mandatory nutrition labels and advertising prohibitions for pre-packaged drinks before the end of next year to help reduce intake of sugar and saturated fat.
Mr Ong added that more people are being screened for diabetes early. About two-thirds of residents aged 40 to 74 were screened from 2017 to last year for diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia within the recommended frequency. Mr Ong also urged those aged 18 to 39 to take the Diabetes Risk Assessment on the HealthHub portal and app to find out if they are at risk of developing the ailment.