KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 ― When British medical journal The Lancet in 2014 crowned Malaysia the most obese country in Asia, many Malaysians expressed their agreement over social media.
That study also said this affected almost half the population and that the condition has been on the rise in the continent for the past few years.
So, when in late July the National Diabetes Institute declared Malaysia having the highest rate of diabetes cases in Asia, and one of the highest in the world, are we surprised?
The International Diabetes Federation reported there were more than 3,492,600 cases of diabetes in Malaysia in 2017.
The correlation between unhealthy diets and the onset of Type 2 diabetes has been proven by many scientific studies conducted over the last decades.
“We see a rise in young people getting Type 2 diabetes in Malaysia. Some patients are in their late teens and early 20s. Also, half of those with diabetes do not know they have it.
“A lot of people are aware of the risk of bad diets but this has not transferred into action,” said Prof Datuk Dr Ikram Shah Ismail, who is the president of Diabetes Malaysia.
“In addition to awareness campaigns, we need other measures. For example, the soda tax that was announced in the recent Budget is a good start.”
In the Budget 2019 announcement, the government announced that an excise tax of 40 sen per litre on sweetened beverages will be imposed from April 1, 2019.
Dr Ikram also said the suggestion made in January to limit the opening hours of local eateries, was a good idea.
“We need to enforce the message to the public that obese people are more susceptible to diabetes.
“Although certain genes that one inherits may contribute to getting diabetes, ultimately the decision to lead a healthier life lies with that person.
“I’m glad to see that the government is taking this issue seriously.”
He applauded the increased of covered walkways in the city as it encourages Malaysians to walk more, especially to and from offices and train stations.
“If our 93-year-old prime minister can cycle around Putrajaya, we all can do it too, seeing many of us are much younger,” he said.
The Federation defines Type 1 diabetes as an auto-immune reaction where the body’s defence system attacks the cells that produce insulin.
People with Type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin.