Diabetes in youth up but where are the stats_ – the middle ground

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by Wan Ting Koh

MORE young people are getting diabetes but we don’t know how many or how many more. This may not be news to most since obesity in Singapore has been on the rise but it was enough of a worry for Dr Amy Khor to allude to it in an opening speech for World Diabetes Day yesterday.

TODAY had the report but it didn’t give any numbers save for this: That obesity rates climbed from 5.1 per cent of the general


population in 1992 to 8.6 per cent in 2013.

We thought we might find the answer in Dr Khor’s speech but there was no mention of any numbers about youth diabetes either. She only said earlier in the speech that the prevalence of diabetes in Singapore has increased from 8.6 per cent in 1992 to 11.3 per cent in 2010. That is, an estimated one in nine adult Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 is living with Type 2 diabetes.

So what is the exact increase in cases with youths being diagnosed with diabetes and when did they occur?

When we did a quick search to find the numbers for increasing cases of youths with diabetes, we found a study done by Alexandra Heath on 182 young adults in November last year which found that “two-thirds (121 patients) had Type 2 diabetes compared to one-third (61 patients) with Type 1 diabetes. This is a sharp contrast to 10 years ago when the majority of young adults with diabetes had Type 1 diabetes”.

An earlier report in 2009 also quoted a Dr Daphne Gardner, registrar at the endocrinology department at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), as saying that “Type 2 diabetes in childhood or adolescence was uncommon in the past but now accounts for at least a third of childhood diabetes.”

There are two types of diabetes. The main difference between the Type 1 and Type 2 is that the former cannot be prevented, whereas the latter, which is the one adults are usually diagnosed with, can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important as obesity may be a cause of diabetes.

Researchers at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research found that obese individuals lack a protein essential for regulating blood glucose levels, which translates into a higher diabetes risk.

According to the Health Xchange website, diabetes is the 10th leading cause of death in Singapore and a total of 400,000 Singaporeans, most aged above 40, were afflicted with it as of 2013, but how many of these are youths and how many more of them have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes as compared to the past?

Tips to keep diabetes away

1. Follow a healthy diet: Eat healthily to control blood glucose levels. Follow a low-calorie diet and take foods high in fiber, including fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

2. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight increases the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes so maintain your weight in the healthy range to reduce the risk of diabetes.

3. Exercise regularly: Apart from helping you control your weight, exercise helps to keep your heart healthy.

4. Reduce your intake of sugary drinks and food: Substitute sugar-sweetened drinks with healthier drinks like tea. You can also drink water to reduce cravings for snacks or substitute artificially-sweetened snacks with nuts and fruits.

5. Prepare meals at home: Cook with less oil and butter and try to use a mix of spices instead of salt. Avoid processed or packaged food like canned soups, frozen dinners, or low-fat meals that often contain hidden sugar.

Featured image Diabetes 2/4 by Flickr user Dennis Skley, CC BY-ND 2.0 .

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As the main field correspondent, Wan Ting likes running around after leads. When she is not chasing after news, the former Lit Major enjoys watching horror films and filling her awfully chocolate quota in her free time. You can contact her at wanting@themiddleground. sg