Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Letter of the Day | Get facts right in war on sugar

Published:Wednesday | October 10, 2018 | 12:04 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Should Government ban salt to reduce the prevalence of hypertension in adults? Does hypertension cause stroke, or excess sugar obesity or type 2 diabetes?

We cannot effectively prevent or reduce the occurrence of any disorder without clearly understanding its specific cause. Unfortunately, a link or risk factor for a disorder is often erroneously believed to be the cause. Excess sugar, for example, is not a healthy habit and is a risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and other chronic disorders, but definitely not the cause of these disorders!

If A causes B, then A acting will always produce B, and the occurrence of B clearly indicates A has acted. This is definitely not the case with excess sugar and obesity or type 2 diabetes, given that many persons overeat, including sugars, without becoming obese or diabetic, while others starve themselves, don't lose weight, and sometimes become more obese. A stroke occurs when there is a lack of blood supply to an area of the brain due to occlusion or rupture of a blood vessel. Hypertension, diabetes and aneurysms are only risk factors and not the cause, or all such patients would definitely get a stroke.

Diabetes is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin, the hormone regulating blood sugar. Dietary factors, physical inactivity, body mass, basal metabolic rate, and genetic predisposition intricately interact in the development of obesity or type 2 diabetes. Although risk factors, combined significantly, increase its likelihood, as long as the body regulates blood sugar within normal limits, diabetes will not develop.

The Jamaican Healthy Lifestyle Survey categorised 25 per cent of Jamaicans as obese. But the prevalence of diabetes is 12.5 per cent. These figures certainly don't confirm any correlation of cause and effect between obesity (risk factor) and type 2 diabetes.

Everything in excess becomes detrimental, not just sugar, which is a ready source of energy and vital for normal brain function! And 'every mickle mek a muckle' also applies to obesity.

Did the health ministry conduct research to determine the main contributing factors to obesity in Jamaica? What is the role of overfeeding infants, caloric intake, physical inactivity, sugary, fibreless, salty, fried foods and chicken? What about stress due to poverty, GSAT/PEP, relationships, and crime and violence?

I endorse the health ministry's drive to reduce obesity and non-communicable diseases, but with some policy concerns, especially its campaign against obesity, which overemphasises one risk factor (excess sugar) and ignores others and the cause.

DAIVE R. FACEY

DR.Facey@gmail.com