Latest updates – Monday, 03-Jun-2013 9:25




A 20-year study by a Walter Sisulu University Professor into the effects of diabetes in former Transkei has revealed that one of the most common misconceptions in the African culture can be attributed to the rise in diabetes numbers.

Chemical pathologist and head of WSU’s chemical pathology department, Prof Ernesto Virgilio Blanco-Blanco made the observation during his Professional Inaugural Lecture held in Mthatha recently.

Blanco-Blanco claims that in the African environment, the most common risk emerging from cultural expression is the misconception related to the popular belief that obesity reflects gracious living.

“This is a dangerous notion because it can lead to the misperception that obesity is also a sign of excellent health, something we now know not to be true. In fact, this can have dire consequences,” said Blanco-Blanco.

His journey into the depths of the former Transkei over the past two decades saw him researching, amongst other things, the risk factors regarding diabetes in the region.

Family history in type 2 black South African diabetic patients was one of the more important factors looked at.

A study, which saw two groups of Xhosa subjects being looked at – a patient and a control group saw the occurrences of positive family history between the groups being compared.

This particular research would eventually establish that the strong genetic component for diabetes in type 2 in black South Africans provides evidence of the risk associated with family history with regards to diabetes.
Blanco-Blanco also looked at control and prevention of diabetic complications in the region.

An assessment of high blood sugar control in stable type 2 black South African diabetics attending a peri-urban clinic was conducted.

The results of the assessment would eventually show poor high blood sugar control in the majority of the with only 20% reaching the appropriate blood sugar control.

A close eye was also cast on the standards of care for diabetic patients at peri-urban hospitals, where evaluations of standards of diabetic care provided at Mthatha General Hospital (MGH) were assessed.

It was found that only 43% of the 23 recommended standards for the process of care, and the outcome of care, were fully implemented.

The identification of the suboptimal standards of medical care for diabetic patients served to understand the problems faced by the clinic and to propose a specific strategy for improvement.

Furthermore, the dietary patterns of the patients attending a tertiary care clinic in the region were assessed.
This aimed to investigate the variety of foods regularly eaten by the diabetic patients in an attempt to identify potential sources of inappropriate glycaemic control and association with increased obesity and glycaemic control.

Randomly selected participants, 62% living in rural areas and 38% from the township were interviewed for food frequency patterns.

Results showed that the food types most regularly consumed were starchy foods. Foods eaten in moderate quantities were isgwampa, umbona, umqa, and amagwinya. Foods that were not eaten frequently were oats, legumes, cereals and pasta, whilst consumption of vegetables was variable. Also, about half the patients used animal fat for cooking.

Results suggested that poor diet control could be at least to some extent contributing to poor glycasemic control reported on those patients.

His research also delved into the human and social, as well as the economic consequences of diabetes.

His research established that the disease can have direct and indirect impacts on the economy, such as the cost of healthcare services, and indirect costs such as productivity loss associated with the disorder.

Blanco-Blanco said the government needs to pay careful extra attention with to diabetes, including; the validity of estimates when it comes to statistics; the pattern of prevalence of diabetes for rural and urban populations; the current prevalence of diabetes type 1; the current financial burden of diabetes; as well as the current prevalence of diabetic complications.

He said the control of the burden of diabetes in South Africa requires collaborative and coordinated action from different sectors; the three most prominent being the health department, academic institutions and communities.


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