Don't expose children to diabetes - Dietetics warn parents of high sugary foods

BY: Mabel Faith Tannor
 Don't expose children to diabetics
Don't expose children to diabetics

The Ghana Dietetics Association Media and Apologetics Committee has cautioned parents to be measured in the amount of sugary foods they give to their children in order not to expose them to getting diabetes in the future.

A statement signed and issued by the association warned parents to save their children from getting diabetes in the near future by reducing the amount of sugary foods they give them.

Below is the statement:

Diabetes Concerns Every Family: Getting The Basics Right.

One Tuesday evening after work, I hurried to the bus station to catch an early “trotro” (local bus) home to escape traffic. The bus station was noisy as usual, with sounds from the hawkers, trotro mates, honking horns etc.

As I waited for the bus to get full, many hawkers come around to display their wares shouting as they go to attract customers. One hawker caught my attention though. She kept saying “Maame odeende, bebree ₵1.00” (Maame odeende means “welcome home mother”).

I stretched my neck a little for a better vision, and I saw in her hand a bag containing assortment of two sugar-sweetened drinks (~100ml), lollipops and biscuits, all for the cost of only ₵1.00.

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It was relatively cheap! In a typical local Ghanaian setting, parents or primary caregivers, who can afford, buy items for their kids when they return home from work, probably as a token of their affection. This makes their children expectant of their return.

The reason for my reflection is to focus on the message some parents inscribe on the subconscious of their children. The mother goes home and gives these drinks, toffees and biscuits to her child. What message could she be sending across? When you are happy or excited, you can eat to celebrate.

Be cautious with what you give out to your child

And what kinds of food do you celebrate with? Sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar-loaded sweets and confectionaries. So at that moment, the primary caregiver loads the child with foods that lack nutrients (empty calories) and are high in calories; laying the foundation for long-term wrong dietary habits, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity (double disease burden)- all in the name of love.

Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by excessive blood glucose levels. This could be due to a lack of or minimal production of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose level, or insulin resistance. The forms of diabetes include Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is characterized by total absence or minimal production of insulin related to the destruction of beta cells of the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin. It is mainly hereditary.

Type 2 Diabetes is mainly due to insulin resistance and one risk factor is obesity. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and in many cases, resolves after birth. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), one in eleven people (512 million) live with diabetes and one in two people (212 million) remain undiagnosed.

prevention is better than cure in the next future

In Ghana, number of people diagnosed with diabetes in 2017 was 518,400 and this is projected to rise 1,426,300 in 2045. The number of people with undiagnosed diabetes in 2017 was 257,600 and it is projected to rise to 708,800 in 2045.

Why should you care about all these statistics, as an individual or as a family? Diabetes concerns every family. According to the IDF, 80% of all cases of Type 2 Diabetes is preventable through healthy lifestyle and 70% of premature deaths due to diabetes are largely due to behavior initiated during adolescence.

Obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes, is creeping up on children all over the world.

Young people’s dietary habits are influenced by a myriad of factors including peer influence, schools, local food environment. The crucial, though partial role of the family in shaping the dietary habits of young ones cannot be underestimated.

If your family happens to be the kind that takes in carbonated drinks to “push down” a meal, adds refined sugars in the form confectionaries and sweets, takes in a lot of fried and processed foods; then I can confidently say that you are preparing yourselves for the kingdom of diabetes.

If fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds are alien your household; then you are at risk.

Parents of the 21st century must invest in ensuring a healthy future of their wards by teaching and being good role models of healthy living. How about an apple for that sugar-sweetened beverage? How about stocking your fridge with assorted fruits that you and the kids can choose from? Be interested in the food your child eats at school.

watch what you give to your child

Engage your child in conversations about nutrition and allow him/her to make choices, shaping them towards healthful ones. And as a caregiver, engage your children in regular physical activity.

Preventing diabetes is a family affair. Let us eat and teach our children to eat nutritious food.

The age old adage “charity begins at home” is true in every respect. Lifelong food habits are no exception in this regard. Dietitians are available in this regard. Invest in the future of your family and the nation now by choosing to eat healthy and engaging in regular physical activity. Diabetes concerns every family!

Thelma Attoh(RD)

For Ghana Dietetics Association Media and Apologetics Committee