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Health, Beauty & Fashion

'Drink water rather than sugary soda'

Schools pitch message to kids in bid to fight rise of obesity-linked diabetes.
The Straits Times - August 31, 2012
By: Lua Jia Min
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'Drink water rather than sugary soda' (From left) Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Mr Ang and pre-school teacher Siti Nadiah Adnan joining K2 children in a toast with water during the launch of the Let's Drink Water Campaign by the Health Promotion Board at a pre-school in Yishun yesterday. -- S

CHILDREN are being encouraged to drink water rather than sugary sodas in a new campaign launched in schools to battle the alarming rise among the young of diabetes linked to obesity.

About half of child and teenage diabetics here have Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to diet and lifestyle, up from 10 per cent in 1999.

This is a cause for concern, said Mr Ang Hak Seng, chief executive officer of the Health Promotion Board, which is leading the campaign.

The Diabetic Society of Singapore (DSS) estimated in 2007 that 600 children and teenagers here have diabetes. No other more recent figures are available.

At My First Skool in Yishun Street 61 yesterday, a group of K2 children sang a jingle about sipping water all day.

They will get regular water breaks, be served water with meals instead of juice, and learn about its benefits.

To combat rising Type 2 diabetes among teenagers, the Let's Drink Water Campaign starts with pre-schoolers to ensure that good habits start from a young age.

But HPB is also targeting schools up to post-secondary level to spread its message about ditching soft drinks - a can of which contains 120 calories - for zero-calorie water.

A student health survey by the board in 2009 found that 28 per cent of parents and caregivers provided sugary drinks to children aged four to nine more than once a week.

By the time they get to their teenage years, however, 43 per cent of teenagers aged 13 to 18 consume one sugary drink every day, leading to increased obesity, said Mr Ang.

Some 10.9 per cent of teens are overweight now, compared with 9.5 per cent in 2006.

Said Dr Bee Yong Mong, director of the Diabetes Centre at the Singapore General Hospital: "The increase in the number of Type 2 diabetics among teenagers and children is directly proportional to the rate of obesity,"

Type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes occurs when the body becomes more resistant to insulin - a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body's cells to use blood glucose for energy - and when cells that store and release insulin start to fail.

It is more typical for children to have Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, where the body cannot produce insulin due to congenital conditions.

A national health survey conducted in 2010 found that 11.3 per cent of adults aged 18 to 70 suffered from diabetes, up from 8.2 per cent in 2004.

For the first time, the HPB has also released a guideline on the daily amount of water and fluid a child and youth should take (see chart). Schools will be encouraged to give students water breaks, and will carry posters and stickers reminding students to choose water over juice and soft drinks.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport, Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, called on parents to get their children to drink water.

The campaign is just a start in reducing diabetes in the young, said some.

Mr George Neo, administrative manager of DSS, said: "Some schools in the United States have completely banned sweet drinks."

BUILDING HEALTHY HABITS

It is important we get them on board with very good dietary habits early on. If you start early, it becomes part of their habit and part of their lives.

- Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport

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