✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

How sweetened beverages are worsening Nigeria’s battle against diabetes

At the age of 23, Zainab Mukhtar lost her husband, a 51-year-old type 2 diabetic patient, who battled the condition for eight years until he…

At the age of 23, Zainab Mukhtar lost her husband, a 51-year-old type 2 diabetic patient, who battled the condition for eight years until he died in 2019.

Describing how excessive intake of sweetened beverages worsened her husband’s condition and led to his eventual death, Zainab said he was specifically addicted to soft and some energy drinks.

“It was after I married him that I realised he had type 2 diabetes and was also addicted to cola drinks. Although he knew he had diabetes, he never stopped taking such drinks. I fought hard, but he never listened. I reported to his doctor and my parents, but he never listened to any of them. I believe that worsened his health condition and led to his death in 2019,” she said.

In Africa, diabetes has claimed about 416,000 lives as at 2021, with at least 24million people living with the disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an umbrella organisation of over 240 diabetes associations in 160 countries and territories.

The IDF states that the disease has also claimed the lives of at least 48,375 Nigerians as at 2021, and revealed in its 10th edition, Atlas Report, that as at 2021, about 3.6million people, aged between 20 and 79 years live with diabetes in Nigeria.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that Nigeria was ranked as the fourth market in the world with the biggest consumers of soft drinks. The United States of America (USA), China and Mexico ranked number one, two and three respectively, according to the 2016 global soft drinks market analysis.

It was, therefore, in an effort to control obesity, which is a risk factor to diabetes and other diseases that the federal government in 2022 adopted the sugary drinks tax by adding N10 per litre tax on all carbonated sugar drinks and beverages. The government’s introduction of the “sugar tax” in the Financial Act 2021, according to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, was to discourage the excessive consumption of sweetened beverages, which she claimed contributed to obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

Battling life-threatening diabetes

For Zainab, the quest to stop her husband’s addiction with sugar sweetened drinks was a difficult task. She said, “I have never seen someone so addicted to sugar sweetened drinks like him. Although he knew he had diabetes, he never stopped taking soft drinks. I fought hard, but he never listened,” she said.

Like Zainab’s late husband, Alhaji Muhammad Aliyu, another diabetic patient, said he had renal kidney failure in 2015 and believes it had connection to excessive sugar intake, specifically from soft drinks. Even after battling for survival through hemodialysis, Muhammad said he was told he needed a kidney transplant.

“My kidneys failed and I know that it is connected to my excessive intake of soft drinks, energy drinks, which I was later informed is high in caffeine,” he said.

Mohammed, who, until his kidney failure, consumed one or two bottles of soft drinks and an energy drink to keep him alert for late night official work, said he now knows better. He explained that since his kidney transplant in India in 2013, he had not taken a sip of any carbonated sugar beverage.

“I am on life medication; I have grown old now, so I need to look after my health, no matter what,” he said.

However, subjecting Zainab and Muhammad’s predicaments for medical explanation, Professor Felicia Anumah, the director, Centre for Diabetes Studies, University of Abuja, explained that diabetes complications could cause heart attack, chronic kidney diseases, stroke, amongst other conditions. She further explained that, “Taking sugar sweetened beverages do not cause heart attack or stroke directly, but excessive consumption of it can cause diabetes, then heart attack and stroke can become a complication of diabetes.”

“We don’t expect somebody who is already diabetic to continue to take those things. When you take sugar sweetened products, it increases your blood sugar, and when somebody has diabetes and the blood sugar is not controlled, complications will arise,” she further explained.

On the risk of developing chronic kidney disease from excessive intake of soft drinks, Professor Anumah noted that there is no direct implication between sugar sweetened beverages and chronic kidney diseases. She, however, said, “For somebody who has diabetes, chronic kidney disease could become a complication. Everything about diabetes, if not controlled, could lead to those damages like heart attack, chronic kidney disease, stroke, among others.”

Risks of type 2 diabetes, heart attack

Several studies by the Harvard School of Public Health, a community of dedicated leading scientists and experts brought together to produce “powerful ideas” that improve global public health, affirm that sugar sweetened beverages contribute to the development of diabetes.

According to the Harvard Community of Researchers, people who consume one to two cans of sugary drinks daily have a 26 per cent risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely take such drinks.

In another metrics, Harvard also revealed that men who consumed an average of one can of sugary beverages a day have a 20 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks.

Also, women who consume more than two sugary drinks daily have a 40 per cent higher risk of heart attacks or chance of dying from heart diseases than those who rarely drink sugar sweetened beverages.

Apart from the risks of heart attack and type 2 diabetes related to sugar drinks intake, Dr Florence Ngozi Uchendu, a former chairperson of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), explained that heavy consumption of sugar sweetened drinks was one of the major contributing factors to diabetes-related deaths in Nigeria.

“The excessive consumption of sweetened beverages, lifestyle changes, and poor nutritional knowledge are amongst the factors contributing to the continued increase in Nigeria’s diabetes-related deaths,” she said.

While diabetes has no cure, Dr Uchendu added that, “Lack of exercise, tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking are also contributing factors to diabetes-related deaths in Nigeria.”

This report was supported by the Gatefield Pro-Health Journalism Fellowship, in partnership with the National Action on Sugar Reduction.

Are you currently earning in Naira but need salary/earnings in Dollars? You have an opportunity to earn as much as $10,000 (₦9.2 million naira) monthly. Click here to get evidence.

%d bloggers like this: