Professor of Endocrinology at the University of Abuja, Felicia Anumah has urged the Federal Government to see the move to levy producers of carbonated drinks, as an opportunity to check the rising incidence of diabetes among indigent Nigerians.
Anumah, who made the call in Abuja during the World Diabetes Day Lecture oragnised by Gatefield and National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR), emphasised that Nigeria does not have the resources to manage the complications of diabetes but that the taxing of carbonated drinks presents a cheap option that can check production and consumption of carbonated drinks, which form predisposing factors to diabetes.
The University Don advised Nigerians to consume more of complex sugars, plenty of vegetables in their daily diet, as well as fruits and avoid sugary drinks that will spike their body sugar level thereby overworking their pancreatic cells responsible for the production of insulin.
“Carbonated drinks contain what we call refined sugars, refined sugars are very readily absorbed. They run straight into our blood streams and spike up the blood sugar level. And once the blood sugar level spikes up, the pancreas is harassed and made to produce insulin that beats down the blood sugar level because the sugar level must not remain high up there.
“So initially, the pancreas will help you each time the sugar levels runs high, but a stage comes in when the pancreas gets exhausted and once it is exhausted, there is no coming back. So what we are saying is, reduce the amount of carbonated drinks and refined sugars you consume so that your pancreas can see you to old age, that’s what we are saying.
“It is a beautiful plan if we can get it regulated. It will be a beautiful that because we don’t have the resources to manage the complications of diabetes, but we have a cheaper option. That cheaper option is prevention”.
A Researcher at Research Hub Africa, Akinwumi Akinola, while presenting a research findings expressed confidence that Nigerians will support the process once government can show transparency in the management of the taxes generated from carbonated drinks.
Akinola argued that no job losses will be experienced by taxing producers of carbonated drinks, as it will instead persuade players in the sector to produce healthier products which are non-calorific.
“The way tax works for diabetes is that when you increase taxes, it discourages people from consuming as purchases will be reduced because there will be an increase in price.
“One of the things from the research findings is that if government can work on the trust deficit by ensuring that people can see the use of taxes collected, and they will support the process.
“Why do you have diet brands and non-calorific brands of those products? It is because they themselves are aware that Nigerians are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of consuming calorific products, that is why they are producing other brands.
“So it will only entail the producers to produce healthier non-calorific products that will keep them in business, and not necessarily leading to job losses”.
The theme for 2021 World Diabetes Day is “Access to Diabetes Care” and a sub-theme “Funding diabetes care through the implementation of health taxes”.