National Day Rally: Govt weighing solutions to improve diabetes situation in Singapore

National Day Rally: Govt weighing solutions to improve diabetes situation in Singapore

Several countries have tried implementing a sugar tax, but nobody has found the ideal solution yet, says PM Lee.

A shopper walks by the sodas aisle at a grocery store in Los Angeles
A shopper walks by the soft drinks aisle at a grocery store. (File photo: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

SINGAPORE: The Government is scouting for solutions to beat diabetes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Aug 20) during the National Day Rally.

“As a first step, we have got the soft drink producers to agree to reduce the sugar in all their drinks sold in Singapore,” he said. While this will help, ultimately, what to drink is a personal choice he said, urging Singaporeans to drink plain water.

In speaking about options explored by other countries, he said that it is not clear if a sugar tax has worked. Several European countries, Mexico and Brunei have tried a sugar tax. The United Kingdom and Chile have also placed warning labels on drinks with high sugar content. Others want to limit the size of soft drinks, but he is not sure if that works either, he said.

“Nobody has found an ideal solution yet. But we are scanning the horizon, and if anyone comes up with a solution that works, we will study it and implement it,” he said.

He said that while people may ask what the Government is doing about diabetes, what is more important is for them to be asking what they can do themselves to change their diet and lifestyle.

“Personal choice and responsibility make all the difference to whether we get diabetes or not, and if we already have diabetes, whether we keep it under control,” he said.

Mr Lee also shared that he has to watch his own condition, as he has a family history of diabetes. His paternal grandmother had diabetes, and several of his uncles had diabetes. His father, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, did not however, probably because he watched his diet and weight very carefully and was “extremely disciplined about exercising,” PM Lee said.

“That is why I have to be careful. I do a test for fasting blood sugar twice a year. If the reading is below six, you are okay. If it is not, you have to investigate further. So far I’m okay. I am below six, but not very far below six, so I know I have to be careful.”

To stay in the safe zone, PM Lee weighs himself every day, and adjusts his food intake, he said. He also exercises daily, takes wholemeal bread instead of white bread and Teh O Kosong (tea without milk and sugar) instead of Teh.

He also gave the example of Mr Song Hee Pheow, a taxi driver who went through a medical check-up through a programme started by the Health Promotion Board for cabbies. It allows taxi drivers to go through a health screening while waiting for their vehicles to be serviced.

mr song
Mr Song Hee Pheow, a taxi driver, found out he had diabetes through a medical check-up and changed his lifestyle. (Photo: MCI)

Mr Song discovered he had diabetes, and promptly changed his lifestyle with advice from his health coach. Instead of taking the lift to his flat, he took the stairs up five stores every day. He also started exercising regularly, ate less fried food, and cut his sugar intake.

In six months, he lost 4kg and when he saw his doctor at the polyclinic recently, his blood sugar levels were found to be good.

“If Mr Song can do it, so can each one of us. I am sharing this with you hoping that you take this to heart, but I am also preaching to myself ... It takes effort, but it can be done. Hope you join me. Start today, so that we can live long and live well,” said PM Lee.

Source: CNA/ja