Javid Hassan, Arab News
Wednesday 19 April 2006
Last Update 19 April 2006 12:00 am
RIYADH, 19 April 2006 — Pointing out that the Kingdom is incurring a monthly expenditure of SR3 billion for the treatment of diabetes, participants in a seminar on “Diabetic Patient Empowerment” have stressed the need for legislative measures requiring manufacturers of food products to be more specific in providing information on food labels.
It was the sixth diabetes care symposium held at King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital inaugurated by Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Mansour Al-Hawasi. Speaking on the subject of “Obesity lifestyle and diabetes”, Dr. Saleh Al-Rajhi, director, Continuous Medical Education at King Fahad Medical City, said 25 to 30 percent of the population was suffering from diabetes costing the Kingdom SR3 billion per month in treatment alone.
As high as 52 percent of the population was obese making them vulnerable to diabetes. “In the army, 34 percent of the soldiers are obese,” Dr. Al-Rajhi said, adding that high consumption of food coupled with a sedentary life style, had led to such a high incidence of diabetes in the Kingdom.
In her presentation on “Trans-fat”, Dr. Hala Al-Rakan, clinical dietician at KKESH, called for legislation making it mandatory for the display of precise information on food labels. She said that in the absence of legislation, manufacturers of food stuff tended to give general information on ingredients used. On the other hand, food labels in the US and EU countries were more specific.
Noting that a major cause of diabetes was the consumption of trans-fat, Dr. Al-Rakan advised diabetic patients to avoid anything containing the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”. They should also give a wide berth to commercially fried food and high fat bakery products unless identified as being reduced or trans free.
Her other tips were: avoid frozen breakfast foods like waffles or pre-fried frozen foods; choose soft margarines labeled “trans-free or made with non-hydrogenated fat”; fry foods less often; use healthier oils like sunflower, canola, palm or coconut; don’t use oil more than two or three times; promote healthy eating habit among children, since rise in the cholesterol level leads to diabetes.
Dr. Mirza Baig, manager, diabetics and food services, Sultan ibn Abdulaziz Humanitarian City, explained how increased intake of protein and reduced consumption of carbohydrate and fats could lower the incidence of diabetes. Dr. Abdullah Al-Wahbi of King Abdul Aziz Medical City spoke on the diabetic food in the Arab world.
Meanwhile, a growing number of patients from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states have been going to the Czech Republic for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. “Today we are receiving 200 patients or more from the Gulf region. In fact, we have constructed a mosque in our hospital to provide them with prayer facilities,” Dr. Ladislav Spisak, head physician of a hospital at the picturesque health resort of Karlovy Vary, near Prague, told Arab News.
Dr. Spisak and his team of physiotherapists were in the capital recently at the invitation of Riyadh Care Hospital, which has an ongoing cooperation with the Bristol Group for the treatment of patients with sugar, diabetes, arthritis and weight problems. Those who can afford it are sent to Karlovy Vary, a place renowned for its mineral-rich spas and picture-postcard look.
Spisak said these health problems stem from the consumption of a fatty diet along with the lack of an active life style. “They do not move, because most of the time they travel by car. As a result, their consumption of energy exceeds the energy output leading to obesity and associated problems. So during their stay at our hospital they have to do a lot of walking and have baths in the spa, rich in mineral water. This is highly beneficial for their health.” He said the hikes and walks in Karlovy Vary spa woods are an inseparable part of the spa treatment and form part of a spa guests’ daily program.