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Fighting diabetes together with tech

Technological advances allow us to personalise nutrition programmes, invest more time in exercise and join others in fitness groups

Today is World Diabetes Day, a day when we all ought to remind ourselves of the need to take active steps to prevent this debilitating disease, especially for us living in Asia.

According to the Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative, Asia contributes to 60 per cent of the world's diabetic population, and one in nine Singaporeans is likely to have diabetes in his lifetime.

While the statistics paint a rather gloomy picture, key strides have been made in the fight against diabetes since 2016 when Health Minister Gan Kim Yong declared war on the disease.

Major soft drink manufacturers have pledged to reduce the sugar content in their drinks in Singapore to 12 per cent and below by 2020.

Other measures such as implementing a sugar tax, warning labels and imposing advertising restrictions on sugar-sweetened beverages with high sugar content are in the process of being reviewed by the Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce.

With much of the initial drive being focused on reducing sugar consumption, less attention has been placed on reducing obesity rates.

Contrary to popular belief, the onset of diabetes is not the direct result of consuming too much sugar.

However, consuming too much sugar could lead to one being overweight or obese, and obesity and lack of physical activity are two of the most common causes of Type 2 diabetes - the predominant form of diabetes worldwide.

With Singapore's obesity rate on its way to hit 15 per cent in seven years, we will need to step up our collective fight against obesity and diabetes to have a realistic shot at changing the status quo.

This is where the role of technology and the community become even more important in the road ahead.

MANAGING GENETIC RISK FACTORS

In recent years, the demand for personalised nutrition - where nutrition solutions are tailored to individuals based on genetic factors as well as lifestyle information - has been on the rise.

This is because when it comes to personal nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all model.

A multitude of factors such as genetic make-up, how active or sedentary one is, the rate of change in one's blood glucose levels after food consumption, personal nutrition goals will contribute to determining the most effective kind of diet for each person.

Today, more and more companies worldwide are offering genetic test kits that can help analyse your genes and provide advice on whether a diet is suitable for you.

In Singapore, there is also a wide range of easily accessible and affordable genetic test kits in the market today.

Following analysis of the kits, you are provided with a comprehensive report of your genetic make-up and correlating lifestyle choices, which you can then use to seek recommendations and create personalised nutrition programmes targeted at your individual needs.

KICK-STARTING ACTIVE LIFESTYLE WITH TECH

Technological advances have also enabled the rise of bike-sharing services, such as Mobike, ofo and SG Bike, to become a key part of our everyday lives.

With affordable plans and ease of access to bikes with a simple scan of the QR code on our mobile phones, we can now incorporate physical activity easily on the way to or back from work, without the need to invest in more time for exercise.

The wide variety of fitness apps and wearables today has made it extremely easy for us to access fitness plans and types of exercise, track our progress, monitor our nutrition intake and activity levels, no matter where we are at any moment of time.

GET THE COMMUNITY INVOLVED

Research has shown that working out with friends can make one more committed and accountable to show up for workouts, help one learn more fitness moves, and spur harder and more productive workouts.

Many health and fitness apps today, such as Runkeeper or Runtastic, have social aspects integrated into their platform, allowing users to find like-minded individuals, share fitness progress and motivate each other in the wellness journey.

One can also take advantage of social media platforms like Facebook to search and join running or exercise groups.

With technology and the community here to support us every step of the way, we might be able to do enough to free ourselves or our loved ones from heading down the diabetes path.

The writer is senior vice-president and managing director of Herbalife Nutrition Asia Pacific.

MEDICAL & HEALTH