Diabetes on the rise in Guam
By Laura Matthews • Pacific Daily News • November 9, 2009
Dr. Iris Theile Isip-Tan, an internist and endocrinologist from the Philippine General Hospital, said Guam and the Pacific region can continue to see rising incidences of diabetes in its population.
She said this is so because residents have turned from the traditional foods to a more westernized eating habit.
"Diabetes is a very serious disease and it is actually on the rise ...That is because we have gone away from the local tradition foods and moved on to a western diet that has led to obesity and overweight and this drives the prevalence of obesity," said Isip-Tan.
She was speaking on the topic "Practical Dietary Preparation in the Type 2 Diabetes" at the free 10th Annual Guam Diabetes Conference yesterday at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa.
This year's theme was "Diabetes: Control Your Sugar, Control Your Life." The conference is coordinated by the Guam Diabetes Association.
Diabetes is a chronic disease where the blood sugar level is above normal. Isip-Tan said many of the foods that are consumed are turned into sugar. It is estimated that at least 40,000 people on Guam are diabetic, according to Pacific Daily News files. Diabetes is listed as one of the Top 10 leading causes of death on Guam since 1985, according to the Guam Diabetes Association.
Isip-Tan said in order for residents to counter the level of diabetes on the island they must first modify their lifestyles. She said there are three basic questions a person with Type 2 diabetes must ask. They are: What is a healthy diet? What is portion control? What is on the food label?
"This is one of the skills a diabetic must learn," she said.
Isip-Tan recommends the people consume more fiber, adding dried fruits to cereal, the use of wheat germ or flax seed, more whole grains and lentils.
"Remove the salt from the table. The dinner has already been prepared with it. Use your herbs to add flavor," Isip-Tan said.
Dr. Edgar Magcalas, an internist, said six to seven out of every 10 patient he sees are diabetic. He said he would usually see 50 to 75 patients a week.
Magcalas said the hard part of educating diabetics on Guam is asking them to limit their rice intake.
"The main food we have is rice and you cannot easily get rid of rice. That is what we grew up with," Magcalas said. "It will take a lot of effort to educate people about changing their lifestyles."