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Eat more local food to avoid disease—Experts

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By Abraham Adekunle

Health experts say westernized food may cause diabetes and hypertension.

Health experts at a two-day medical outreach, which was held in memory of the late Mrs. Phebian Obasoyin, have advised Nigerians to take more of local foods to prevent diseases and untimely deaths. The medical outreach was held at the residence of the deceased in Ikere-Ekiti (Ekiti State), who died on September 9, 2021. The Deaconess Phebian Obasoyin Diabetes Patients Foundation, which organized the medical outreach, conducted free medical tests for the participants and dispensed medicine freely to those in need. The medical foundation conducted tests on people with diabetes, high blood pressure, dental problems, and hepatitis.

The Medical Director of Oba Adejuyigbe General Hospital Ado Ekiti, Dr. Samuel Omotoso, said the outreach would create awareness on some diseases that people can prevent through their eating habits. He also said that the event will enable people to check their health status so that they would not be caught unaware by avoidable diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. He emphasized that hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a cardiovascular disease that affects the heart. He said people call it a silent killer because it sometimes gives no symptoms until it is too late, which could lead to stroke, heart failure or heart attack.

Sugar-sweetened westernized foods cause damage to people’s health.

He ended by saying that the awareness being created on HBP is not designed to create fear or stress in people but to enlighten them on why they need to often check their blood pressure level and the best ways to prevent the risk of hypertension and diabetes. It is not uncommon for hypertensive patients to also have diabetes and vice versa. While addressing the participants, Dr. Seeke Abiodun urged Nigerians to cultivate the habit of eating local foods to prevent diseases.

She said it was unfortunate that children were also affected by hypertension and diabetes. She said every local food we have in Nigeria is healthy, unlike westernized foods that are causing damage to people’s health. Diabetes is a condition when blood sugar levels are higher than normal. In other words, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. Westernized foods that Dr. Abiodun refers to are sugar-sweetened ones such as chocolate, candy, ice cream, soda (beverage drinks), and more.

Nigerians’ sedentary lifestyle contributes to cases of HBP and diabetes.

These are foods and drinks that Nigerians would not do without. For instance, carbonated drinks are mainstream in Nigeria, with some Nigerians taking as much as four bottles a day. It has been estimated that 35 million people drink carbonated soft drinks every day in Nigeria. This represents about 19 percent of the country’s population. This, added to other sweetened food that Nigerians consume, such as doughnuts, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, etc., contributes to the rising cases of hypertension and diabetes in the country.

Dr. Abiodun attributes the rise in HBP and Diabetes partly to the sedentary lifestyle of many Nigerians. She said that these diseases were more common in the urban areas than the rural areas. A study was conducted by Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein to analyze the levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior in 6,234 students aged 14 to 19 years living in urban and rural areas. It was discovered that rural residents spent less time watching television, using a computer and/or playing video games, or sitting down. They were less likely to be classified as insufficiently active, compared to urban residents. In other words, people in urban areas live a more inactive lifestyle and are at more risk of HBP and Diabetes.

The medical expert urged Nigerians to watch their dietary patterns.

Abiodun urged Nigerians to watch their diet and reduce their intake of salt. “Instead, eat more of balanced diet, vegetables and fruits. Avoid alcohol and tobacco, and engage in physical activities,” she advised. Princess Adeola Ale, who spoke on behalf of the children of the deceased, said that her mother successfully managed the treatment of both hypertension and diabetes for over 30 years before she died in 2021. She said that the diseases were not as fearful and deadly as most people see it, but that they need careful management and strict adherence to doctors’ advice.

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