MANILA, DECEMBER 1, 2007 (STAR) By Phoebe Jen Indino - Diabetes is one of the 21st century’s most challenging health problems and it has been spreading more rapidly in Asia than anywhere else, the World Health Organization (WHO).

The number of diabetes cases in developing countries, including the Philippines, is likely to increase more than two-fold in the next 30 years, according to WHO.

In the Philippines, for example, there are about four million diabetics but more than three million of them do not know they have it. And among those who know they have it, only about 200,000 have been undergoing treatment.

“Many Filipinos simply don’t know they have the disease,” said Dr. Augusto Litonjua, one of the country’s leading experts on diabetes.

The Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation, in a statement, said, “We cannot win the war against diabetes if we do not know the enemy.”

One of the indications of unfamiliarity of the disease is that most Filipinos believe that sweeteners and sugars present in carbonated drinks are so high that routine consumption can cause diabetes.

Dr. Rodolfo Florentino, chairman and president of the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines-Cebu, in a recent symposium on hydration at Parklane Hotel, clarified that soft drinks are not considered among the risk factors of diabetes.

Florentino said diabetes only occurs when the body can no longer make proper use of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows energy from carbohydrates in food or drinks to be utilized by body cells.

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic, debilitating and often deadly disease that affects how the body turns food into energy. Normally, the food we eat is converted into glucose and used or stored by the body with little problems.

Circulating insulin hormone stimulates the uptake of sugar by the body’s cells but with diabetes something goes awry. The pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin, becomes irresponsible in this condition.

Diabetes strikes in two forms: In type 1, the body does not make enough insulin, and this situation generally afflicts children and adolescents; in type 2, which is more widespread and often strikes in adulthood, the body is unable to produce enough insulin or is unable to process and utilize it properly.

Health experts said the symptoms of diabetes are excessive thirst and appetite, increased urination (sometimes as often as every hour), weight loss, fatigue, nausea, perhaps vomiting; and blurred vision.

In women, there are frequent vaginal infections and perhaps the cessation of menstruation.

Long-term complications of diabetes can damage the eyes, kidneys, nervous system, and cardiovascular systems, as well as hinder the body’s overall resistance to infections.

Cuts and sores heal more slowly for people with diabetes, and diabetics are also prone to gum problems and urinary tract infections. – Freeman News Service

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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