Close food outlets by midnight to check diabetes

Taman Sentosa in Johor Baru, Malaysia, a typical neighbourhood lined with eateries.

PETALING JAYA: The Government must take an aggressive approach by ordering all food outlets to close by midnight to fight the growing incidence of diabetes in the country.

Diabetes Malaysia vice-president Jong Koi Chong said the Government must start implementing hard policies like the calls by NGOs to stop food outlets from operating beyond midnight.

He said the NGOs had made this call in the past but the Government did not adopt it as it was not a popular move.

However, Jong said current data showed that increasing knowledge and awareness were not adequate in bringing about behavioural changes.

"From our experience, the various healthy lifestyle campaigns from the early 1990s can attest to this fact. Malaysians are not taking it seriously. We need a more aggressive approach," he said.

Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) commemorates World Health Day with the theme Beat Diabetes.

Jong, who is also Malaysian Prevention of Obesity Council president, said the Government must reduce the exposure of its population to non-communicable disease factors through hard policies, not just soft policies while individuals and society must take more responsibility for their own health.

He raised the concern that the overall prevalence of diabetes had drastically increased to more than the projected 15 per cent by 2025.

The Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 revealed that the overall prevalence of diabetes in Malaysia rose from 15.2 per cent in 2011 to 17.5 per cent in 2015.

Out of the 17.5 per cent, only 8.3 per cent knew they had the disease while 9.2 per cent were previously undiagnosed.

Jong said one reason for the increase was due to the Health Ministry picking out residents randomly for the survey and discovered that some were diabetic and they were not aware of it.

"For every one diagnosed diabetes there is one undiagnosed diabetes. The undiagnosed ones are the ones we are worried about," he said.

He said the 17 per cent figure was high and it was linked to the obesity rate, especially among the younger generation.

Meanwhile, Jong said fast food outlets should offer healthy choices to customers.

Food industries should work closely with the Government to reduce obesity, which could lead to diabetes, he said.

"If we can reduce obesity, diabetes figures can be reduced," he said.

According to WHO, diabetes was the direct cause of some 1.5 million deaths in 2012, with more than 80 per cent of those occurring in low and middle-income countries.

WHO projected that diabetes would be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, gives us the energy that we need to live. If it cannot get into the cells to be burned as energy, sugar builds up to harmful levels in the blood.

Over time, high blood sugar can seriously compromise every major organ system in the body, causing heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, impotence and infections that can lead to amputation.