Diabesity: Eating more, moving less threaten Pinoys

Jee Y. Geronimo
Diabesity: Eating more, moving less threaten Pinoys
About 7 out of 10 Filipino adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight and obese

MANILA, Philippines – That Filipinos love eating is no secret: recommend a new restaurant in town, and nothing – not even long lines – can deter us from trying out the bestsellers. Fiesta? Bring out the lechon!

But if you pair this love for eating with a sedentary lifestyle, it becomes a dangerous combination.

Dr Araceli Panelo, board chairman of the Institute for Studies on Diabetes Foundation Inc (ISDFI) said the Filipino as a race is at risk of type 2 diabetes, a high blood sugar disease often linked to obesity.

“The westernized Filipino diet and sedentary lifestyle contribute to the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Philippines,” she said in a media briefing Wednesday, August 6.

Panelo said other than unhealthy eating habits, the risk of diabetes is also increasing among Filipinos “because we don’t walk anymore.”

Take a look, for example, at Metro Manila’s public transportation. With the overabundance of buses, jeepneys, and tricycles, we can get from point A to point B without needing to walk long distances. (READ: What I talk about when I talk about walking)

Panelo said Filipinos are also at risk of diabetes because of the following:

  • Ethnically, Asians are more prone to diabetes
  • There is an increasing prevalence of obesity
  • In the typical Filipino plate, carbohydrates such as rice is predominant

The International Diabetes Federation reported there were 3.2 million cases of diabetes in the Philippines in 2013. Prevalence of diabetes also rose from 4.9% in 2002 to 7.2% in 2009.

About 90% of all diabetes cases are classified as type 2. This is characterized by insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, the body of a type 2 diabetic no longer uses insulin properly and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels.


Since this type of diabetes is often associated with obesity, weight management is important.

But Dr Roberto Mirasol, former president of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, said “diabesity” – a new term describing diabetes in the context of obesity – is a major public health problem in the country today that is evolving into a “silent” epidemic.

“There is a growing trend of diabesity among Filipino patients with type 2 diabetes. Based on a study, 5 out of 7 patients who are overweight have abdominal obesity. This high visceral fat leads to more complications,” he added.

In fact, it has been reported that in the Philippines, 7 out of 10 adults with type 2 diabetes are overweight and obese.

Mirasol said the best way to contain the “diabesity epidemic” is to screen for early detection, prevention, and early management of obesity.

He recommended the annual screening of individuals 30 years of age and older who are experiencing the following risk factors:

  • family history
  • hypertension
  • obesity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • cardiovascular disease
  • hyperlipidaemia

Obesity, meanwhile, can be detected by computing one’s Body Mass Index. (READ: How being overweight can threaten your health)

On Wednesday, AstraZeneca launched Dapagliflozin, an oral medication that helps manage type 2 diabetes by going back to the kidney to keep glucose in control.

The medicine has the ability to lower blood glucose levels by filtering glucose out from the body through urine, removing accompanying calories. While the medicine is the first of its kind, it must still be used to supplement diet and exercise.

“The Dapagliflozin of AstraZeneca is one of the few drugs that offer an important new complementary action to help patients with type 2 diabetes,” said Stephan Matthaei, director of the Diabetes, Metabolism and Endocrinology Center of Quakenbrück Hospital in Germany.

He added: “With this novel drug, Filipinos will be able to control their sugar level better, manage their weight, and also reduce their blood pressure.” –

Overweight man image via Shutterstock

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.