For many of us, the day isn’t complete without popping a bottle of our favourite soft drink.
Soft drinks look and taste good. They come in all sorts of packaging, colours and flavours that appeal to all the senses.
On the average, it’s difficult to convince a growing child that regular consumption of soft drinks does have untoward effects on health. Indeed, ask the average school kid what he spends his lunch allowance on, and the first item on the list is likely to be a bottle of … you fill in the gap!
Sugar eating is not peculiar to kids, though; as some adults seem unable to control their appetite for sugary beverages, especially those reportedly designed for weight watchers, which researchers say, contain as much sugar as do those that could be taken by those who don’t claim to be on any diet.
Indeed, a recent study by scientists at Imperial College of London suggests that daily consumption of just a 50cl bottle of sugar-sweetened beverage can raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 22 per cent.
The research, published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes), was carried out by a team of scientists comprising Drs. Dora Romaguera, Petra Wark and Teresa Norat. Other researches in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden, France and The Netherlands also support their findings.
Experts describe diabetes mellitus as a metabolism disorder. “This refers to the way our bodies use digested food for energy and growth. Most of what we eat is broken down into glucose – a form of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar after meals is a key risk factor in the progression from impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes) to type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says diabetologist/Medical Director of Rainbow Specialist Medical Centre, Lekki Phase 1, Dr. Afokoghene Isiavwe.
Asked what constitutes the normal range for blood sugar levels, and what blood sugar level constitutes a true emergency, experts say when a healthy individual eats, the blood sugar will not exceed 135mg to 140mg per deciliter, giving a fairly narrow range of blood sugar throughout the entire day.
In diabetics, however, the story is remarkably different. Scientists say a diabetic patient’s blood sugar can exceed 180mg to 200mg per deciliter, exceeding the capacity of the kidneys to reabsorb the glucose, making the patient to spill glucose into the urine. That’s when people pass what is generally called ‘sugar-spiked urine.’
Diabetes comes in two types – types one and two. Isiavwe says, “Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin that is needed for sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.”
She explains that various factors may contribute to someone having type 1 diabetes, including genetics and exposure to certain viruses. “The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system – which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses – mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Again, genetics and family history may play a role in this process, while exposure to certain viruses may trigger the disease,” she says.
Experts reveal that glucose is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues and it comes from two major sources – food and your liver.
“Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin. Your liver stores glucose as glycogen. When your insulin levels are low, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, the liver converts stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose level within a normal range.
“In type 1 diabetes, there’s no insulin to let glucose into the cells, so sugar builds up in your bloodstream, where it can cause life-threatening complications,” experts say.
They also say that the far more common type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.
Lamenting the problem, Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Jide Idris, once said that “diabetes affects an estimated six per cent of Lagos populace.” This, he says, was responsible for the initiatives of the state government in organising free screening for diabetes and hypertension – two potential killer conditions.
Experts say apart from genetics, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, probably because people tend to exercise less as they get older, gaining weight in the process.
“Maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly are ways of preventing and managing diabetes,” Isiavwe counsels.
She notes that in particular, abdominal fat puts you at increased risk. “This is because the fat releases chemicals that can upset the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems. This then increases your risk of developing various conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer,” she says.
In conclusion, experts say though you may be helpless against developing type 1 diabetes, you can save yourself from a debilitating disease like type 2 diabetes by living responsibly.
“The consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks increases your risk of diabetes. So, for every can of soft drinks that you drink per day, the risk is higher,” lead researcher, Dora Romaguera, warns.
Beat type 2 diabetes
Eat healthy foods. Choose foods low in fat and calories. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Get physical. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride a bike. Swim laps.
Lose excess pounds. If you’re overweight, losing five to 10 per cent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes.
A 15-minute walk after each meal could prevent older people from developing type-2 diabetes, a study has found.
Elevated blood sugar after meals could increase the risk of type-2 diabetes. So, resting after eating “is the worst thing you can do,” the study says.