Kenya is suffering a diabetes crisis that is set to paralyse the country's health system in coming years and is being driven by excessive sugar consumption in breakfasts.
This is according to Broadway Bakery Limited that has launched a countrywide awareness campaign against sugar nabbed #BeSugarSmart, in an effort to sensitize Kenyans against this imminent danger.
Broadways Business Development Executive Mr. Bimal Shah who is spearheading the campaign has called on food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in their products.
Kenyans consume sixty grams of sugar a day compared to Tanzanians who consume twenty three grams a day. However in India, citizens consume just 5 grams of sugar a day, while the Chinese average just over fifteen grams a day.
Addressing the African Food Manufacturing and Safety Summit at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, Mr. Shah said there would be a looming crisis for the healthcare sector due to diseases that are being driven by poor food choices, triggering debilitating and permanent diseases in adults as young as 25 years old.
"Figures indicate that already more than 5 per cent of 25 year old Kenyans are developing diabetes, which is a lifelong condition that causes kidney failure, loss of limbs, comas and a range of debilitating and life threatening complications, from a disease that is triggered profoundly by excessive sugar consumption," said Mr. Shah.
He added that as diets shift towards manufactured and processed foods, manufacturers have a responsibility to start addressing the excessive sugar content in some of their food products and beverages.
Mr. Shah who presented some of the key causes of sugar overload at the weekend event said research from the World Health Organisation shows that the majority of sugar is consumed at breakfast as sugar added to tea, but also in some breads that Kenyans love which contain more sugar than cakes, biscuits and cereals.
"On the basis that more than 49.5 grams of sugar is consumed at breakfast time, compared with the WHO guidelines for 50 grams of sugar a day, Broadways Bakery has taken a long-term decision to manufacture and deliver bread that is sugar-light. Broadway bread contains sugar at the rate of only 2.5 per cent of flour weight, compared with 7 to 8 per cent for other leading brands," he said.
Kenya now has a higher prevalence of diabetes than Africa as a whole, with the country's mounting diabetes crisis placing acute pressure on hospital services and on particular facilities such as kidney dialysis.
According to Broadways Limited, Kenyans' excessive sugar consumption has also brought a surge in obesity with almost one fifth of pre-school Kenyans now obese and almost a third of Kenyans overweight.
The company has strongly condemned the poor decisions made by Kenyans in considering what to consume during breakfast saying most of the common breakfast snacks and beverages are filled with too much sugar.
"The major life decision for any modern Kenyan is what they eat for breakfast with most starch-based 'breakfast foods' laden with sugar, a lot of which is hidden. Make the wrong choice and you or your child will end up with a breakfast high in sugar bringing with it health problems, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure," he said.
#BeSugarSmart campaign, aims at educating Kenyans on being aware of the sugar content of what they eat and in checking food labels to establish the sugar content.
"Sugar is not a bad thing at all, if consumed in moderation. But where Kenyans have shifted to excessively high sugar diets, the price is being paid by many in hospitalisation and long term health issues. The key is to be vigilant and check labels where applicable, as well as inquire from manufacturers if there is uncertainty," said Mr. Shah.