03 August 2011

Global diabetes expert cautions Africa on pandemic

An estimated 6.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes, a number expected to rise sharply. Diabetes expert Dr Geert Verhelst presents the latest research in South Africa.

An estimated 6.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes, a number expected to rise sharply. International diabetes expert Dr Geert Verhelst is currently in South Africa to present the latest research.

A staggering 300 million people worldwide have diabetes - a figure expected to rise to 438 million in 20 years with Africa set for the highest incidence of growth during this period.

In South Africa, Dr Verhelst will present to the health industry and the public on the latest research into, and holistic preventative measures for diabetes, Syndrome X and high cholesterol. He will also host Health24's Diabetes Expert Forum on 4 and 5 August 2011.

  • Worldwide, approximately 300 million people have diabetes (285 million in 2010) with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) predicting that by 2030 this number will rise to 438 million.
  • The IDF predicts the greatest increase will be in Africa (27% growth, pushing predictions to over 20 million people living with diabetes in 2030) and the Eastern Mediterranean (25%).
  • The foundation predicts that within 16 years, the incidence of diabetes diagnosis will equal current rates of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The World Health Organisation also predicts that Africa will show the highest growth in diabetes worldwide.

  • Until recently, the medical world did not strongly connect the use of sugar with the development of diabetes type 2. Now, studies show a direct association between the intake of fructose and insulin resistance, the stage before diabetes type 2. Refined sugar, or sucrose, consists of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Refined sugar used in many soft drinks (high fructose corn syrup 55) comprises 55% fructose and 42% glucose. So, in a good diabetes diet, sugar and other refined sources of fructose (not fruit) should be avoided. 

  • Most health professionals only look at blood glucose levels to evaluate diabetes. While blood glucose is a momentary look at sugar levels (and is directly influenced by meals, stress, exertion, etc, glycosylated hemoglobin or HbA1C is an indicator of the average blood sugar concentrations over  previous months and providesa better indication of how diabetes is being managed.
  • This test method is increasingly proving to be an important co-factor in the evaluation and treatment of diabetes. All the measures taken in case of diabetes (diet, weight loss, medication, food supplements, etc) should lead to a lower HbA1C.
  • Dr Verhelst will also highlight how cinnamon can help decrease HbA1C 


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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