Tax on sugary food and forced exercise will help fight diabetes

DUBAI // Human nature is the key factor in why we get fat, doctors said on the first day of the Arab Health conference. Dr Karim Meeran, a professor of Endocrinology at Imperial College London, said our brains have been programmed over generations to use the least amount of energy where possible, as we go […]

DUBAI // Human nature is the key factor in why we get fat, doctors said on the first day of the Arab Health conference.

Dr Karim Meeran, a professor of Endocrinology at Imperial College London, said our brains have been programmed over generations to use the least amount of energy where possible, as we go through our day-to-day lives.

“Our brains have been programmed over generations to use the least amount of energy and to save it. It is part of our natural survival instinct,” he said.

“If we go back to the environment of the 1920s, for example, life was not as convenient, and there was less choice. Today, people should be encouraged to modify their behaviour to avoid obesity and health-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

“Taxation encourages people to make different choices, rather than automatically choose calorie-dense food, because the brain is programmed to choose food that is most likely to give us energy.”

Dr Meeran said taxation on sugary foods could have a big impact on consumption, as a tobacco tax has done on smoking in the UK.

Rewards and goal-setting, such as allowing workers an hour off at the end of the working week if they have logged three exercise sessions that week, could also encourage people to change unhealthy lifestyles.

A New England Journal of Medicine study was used to show how reducing choices and introducing forced exercise could lead to a change in health outcomes and reduced incidence of diabetes.

For the study, 3,234 overweight subjects were put through a four-year programme of forced exercise for an hour, three times a week. The results showed seven people would have to participate in lifestyle modification, such as forced exercise, to prevent one case of diabetes, whereas 14 would have to receive metformin medication to achieve the same results.

Dr Meeran said: “It is extremely difficult getting people to exercise in some parts of the UAE. Many parts of the country have very wide roads and no pavements. So we need to educate people before they get diabetes.”

Running alongside Arab Health is the fourth Middle East Diabetes Conference, where speakers discussed the latest findings and treatments.

nwebster@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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