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March 4, 2021

Is our love for biryani turning us into a nation of diabetics?


March 4, 2021

A plate full of Biryani.

Poor eating habits of Pakistanis, especially their excessive consumption of rice in the form of biryani, and carbonated drinks are the leading causes of diabetes in Pakistan, where around 26 per cent of the adult population is afflicted with the lifestyle disease.

These facts were shared by experts on Wednesday while they spoke at the launch of Discovering Diabetes, a project aimed at finding undiagnosed patients of diabetes in Pakistan.

Discovering Diabetes is a joint venture between the Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) and PharmEvo, a local pharmaceutical company. A helpline has been established as part of the project to help people know their status of diabetes and get consultation with leading diabetologists of the country.

On this occasion, an android phone-based glucometer EvoCheck was also launched. It can be connected with a smart phone and maintain the data on blood sugar, which can help diabetologists and patients keep track of the blood sugar and adjust medicines accordingly.

Pakistani cuisine

“There’s an immediate need to reinvent the Pakistani cuisine,” said Emeritus Professor Tasnim Ahsan. “Everything we’re eating should be avoided, especially rice in the form of biryani, soft drinks and the so-called fast food. The only recreational activity in Pakistan is eating in abundance, which is making the nation diseased.”

She said that Pakistan is facing an epidemic of diabetes, with millions of adult Pakistanis now living with the disease. She also said that type 2 diabetes is an obesity-driven disease, which is now a global problem. Lack of physical activity in addition to excessive food intake, and marrying in the family are some other causes of diabetes, she added.

According to her, over 50 per cent of the people living with diabetes do not know about their health status, and they only come to know about their disease when their eyes, kidneys, heart or brain suffer irreparable damage.

She urged people to benefit from the Discovering Diabetes helpline to know about their health status, and to start taking preventive measures if they are not diabetics.

Silent killer

Diabetologist Prof Zaman Shaikh said that diabetes is a silent killer that is killing hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan annually, but unfortunately, majority of the people are unaware of their disease and consider it an unimportant health issue.

“When people come to us after living with diabetes for several years, several of their vital organs have already faced irreversible damage. Diabetes causes permanent damage to the eyes and kidneys, and causes heart attacks and large, fatal strokes.”

He urged people to take preventive measures so that they can protect themselves from contracting the disease in the first place, or manage it if they are diabetics.

Discovering diabetes

PharmEvo Chief Executive Officer Syed Jamshed Ahmed said that they have launched Discovering Diabetes in collaboration with the PES as a community service and to help millions of people who are living with this disease but do not know about their health status due to a lack of education and being unaware of the risk factors that cause diabetes.

“If a male in Pakistan is above 40 years of age, has a family history of diabetes, which means that either his parents or siblings are diabetics, and his waist circumference is over 36 inches, he is either a diabetic or is going to contract diabetes later in life.”

He said that these people can get themselves screened for diabetes through the Discovering Diabetes project and immediately start changing their lifestyle and get medicines in consultation with doctors.

‘Change your habits’

Prof Javed Iqbal from Bahawalpur, anchorman Waseem Badami and actor Waseem Abbas said that nowadays, unawareness and a lack of information is a sin, especially in terms of health, because diseases like diabetes are silently causing irreversible damage to people. They urged people to change their dietary and recreational habits, and get themselves tested for diabetes as soon as possible.

PharmEvo Managing Director Haroon Qasim called for making diabetes awareness a part of school curricula, saying that in a country with 26 per cent people living with diabetes, every child should know what they should eat and how to live a healthy life to protect themselves from contracting diabetes, blood pressure and other lifestyle diseases.

“At PharmEvo Limited, we’re striving for the creation of a healthier society, and Discovering Diabetes is one of our many projects to move in that direction.” Other health experts, including PES president-elect Prof Abrar Ahmed from Peshawar, as well as actor Imran Abbas and PharmEvo Chief Operating Officer Syed Jamshed Ahmed also spoke on the occasion.