By Vivian Ihechu
When a 52 year-old Chief Executive Officer of a company, Mr Nduka Okorie, was diagnosed with diabetes about seven years ago, it was like giving him a “death sentence’’.
The medical condition had many “unfounded’’ accompanying lifestyle rules and regulations, “dos and don’ts’’ that were supposedly aimed at making him live a longer and healthier life.
This also extended to his diet where he was expected to be eating a greater proportion of meals containing beans, plantain and wheat.
The same scenario played out in the case of Mrs Funsho Oguntola and Hajiya Sadikat Bello, who, when they were diagnosed with diabetes, were told not to eat sugary foods.
According to them, diabetes is caused by the consumption of sugary things and if one has it, the person is expected to be on a special diet for life.
Oguntola said that her friends even told her take herbs as some were known to have cured diabetes; this move, she said, almost cost her kidneys, if not for the timely intervention of medical doctors.
However, Endocrinologists, specially trained physicians who diagnose diseases related to the glands have largely debunked these suppositions, saying they are all mere myths as Nigerians join others the world over to mark 2017 World Diabetes Day.
World Diabetes Day is marked annually on November 14 to draw attention to the health condition this is fast becoming a global pandemic. The theme for 2017 is: “Women and Diabetes — Our Right to a Healthy Future’’.
Reports indicate that in 2015, it was estimated that 415 million adults globally have diabetes and it is expected to rise to 642 million by 2040.
The most common types of diabetes are Type 1, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, Type 2, a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose).
Others are Prediabetes in which blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes and Gestational diabetes, a form of high blood sugar affecting pregnant women.
In a lecture on “Diabetes Mellitus: An Overview’’, Dr Ifedayo Odeniyi, an Endocrinologist, defined diabetes as a metabolic disease characterised by hyperglycemia, an abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) level.
Hyperglycemia is a hallmark sign of diabetes (both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) and Prediabetes. The main symptoms of hyperglycemia are increased thirst and a frequent need to urinate.
The lecture with the theme: “Equipping Present-day Journalists for Effective Reporting of Diabetes’’, was at a capacity building workshop on Diabetes for Health Journalist in Lagos.
It was organised by Sanofi, a global healthcare organisation, as part of activities to mark the 2017 World Diabetes Day.
The endocrinologists say that the moment the Pancreas is unable to produce insulin enough to convert the glucose in the blood to energy for the body’s functions, it results in diabetes.
Odeniyi, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said: “Hyperglycemia means very high level of blood glucose resulting from the combination of insulin not working very well, insulin action or inadequate insulin secretion.
“Most people believe that when you have diabetes, it is because you eat too much sugar, this is not correct.
“Diabetes is not as a result of consuming sugar or sugary things, but rather, it is as a result of the body’s ability to handle glucose in the body.’’
He notes that the glucose comes from all the food we eat whether it is meat, carbohydrate, protein or fat; so, in their normal forms, the body does not recognise them.
“The only thing the body recognises is glucose as a source of energy.
“When one eats foods prepared from Cassava like “Eba’’ and “Fufu’’, Rice and others, the body changes them to glucose which is needed for energy, movement, sight and general brain and body functioning.
“However, before the body can make use of this glucose, one hormone is very important and that is insulin.
“After we have eaten and glucose is in the system, the pancreas produces insulin to enable the body cells to utilise the glucose.’’
According to Odeniyi, “When insulin is produced, the channel is opened for the insulin to go into the body cell for them to be broken down to energy, carbon dioxide and water.
`So, insulin can be likened to be the key that opens the door for the glucose to go in.
“Some people’s body may not be producing insulin at all, as in those that have Type 1 diabetes.
“However, some others may be producing insulin, but it is either the insulin is not enough or the insulin is not working well enough to allow the glucose to be absorbed into the blood stream.
“This is what happens in those that have Type 2 diabetes.’’
The endocrinologist says that another myth associated with the condition diet, noting that many people attribute diabetes to the consumption of sugar.
“Diabetes is not due to sugar or taking sugary things.
“Even if one does not take sugary things, there is still that possibility that diabetes could come.’’
Odeniyi says there is no special diet for diabetes and there is nothing like diabetic diet.
“We hear that the diet for people with diabetes should be beans, unripe plantain and wheat.
“A lot of people have been sentenced to this diet and this should not be.
“Diabetic patients can eat everything; the only thing that should change is the quantity, of which must be regulated.
“There are so many diets but none specific for diabetes; in which ever environment one is, use the food that is culturally accepted by the patient to manage the person.
“So, as long you can control the calories, a patient can eat any type of food.’’
On the belief that diabetes is a disease from the spirits or an affliction from the enemy, Odeniyi also says it is unfounded.
“Diabetes is neither a disease from the spirits nor an affliction from the enemy.
“So, the earlier people are diagnosed and effective management commences, the better chances of the person living a healthier and longer life,’’ Odeniyi says.
Dr Felicia Anumah, a Professor of Medicine/Endocrinology and Diabetology in Gwagwalada, Abuja, corroborated Odeniyi’s submissions but notes that the problem which is fast becoming a global pandemic could be best addressed through lifestyle changes.
Anumah, Head of the Department of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University ofAbuja/Head, Department of Medicine, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital,Gwagwalada, Abuja, says that exercises, eating right and constantly checking one’s Body Mass Index (BMI) could lead to early detection and management of the condition.
The endocrinologist also stresses the need for the education, especially of the woman in line with this year’s theme for the Day.
She says that the woman holds the family and if properly educated on what to eat and when to do that, it will make the children to begin to eat right early in life, thereby preventing the mortality diabetes could cause in the future.
She notes that Type 1 diabetes was now manifesting in children mainly as a result of lifestyle and overweight.
Also, Tomi Fakolade, Medical Advisor, Sanofi-Aventis, Nigeria Ltd., says that diabetes could occur in anyone irrespective of whether the person has a family history of diabetes or not.
According to him, diabetes does not occur only in older people as is commonly believed, but also occur in children.
“Children can have diabetes, especially the Type 1; this type of diabetes is due to the destruction of the Beta cells that produce insulin.
“Since the beta cells are destroyed, they cannot produce insulin and these set of diabetics need insulin for survival’’.
On the cure for diabetes, Fakolade notes there is no cure yet, and that the consumption of herbs and herbal mixture has not been proven as cure or treatment for disease.
“Some people believe that some herbs and drugs can completely cure diabetes; this is not correct.
“No herb cures diabetes; instead, herbs can affect internal organs such as the kidneys, causing the person to end up being on dialysis on the likelihood of the kidneys having packed up.
“But with education, lifestyle modification, including quitting of smoking, drinking alcohol, regular exercise, healthy diet and weight reduction, a diabetic patient can live as long as God has designed it, if the person follows medical instructions,’’ says Fakolade.
Diabetes Mellitus has been identified as a global problem and an emergency.
Mr Oladimeji Agbolade, Head, External Affairs, Sanofi, says diabetes has become a global pandemic, noting that 2015, it was estimated that 415 million adults have diabetes and it is expected to rise to 642 million by 2040.
He says that managing the disease is tedious and time-consuming but required effective management which would include taking extra care around food and exercise, as well as monitoring of blood levels throughout the day.
Agbolade wants the Federal Government to make a policy that would ensure that Nigerians were compulsorily tested for diabetes anytime they went to a hospital.
Also in 2015, it was estimated that 14.2m people have diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa; this figure is projected to be 35.2 million by 2040.
In Nigeria, the prevalence of people who suffer diabetes is put at five and seven per cent and it comes with attendant consequences.