Medical experts have expressed concerns at the growing number of diabetes cases in Cambodia, and indeed the world. It appears that many people are unaware of the link between a poor diet and an increased risk of contracting the disease.

Experts say the disease poses an increasing threat to the public health and economy of Cambodia. Their warnings came as the world observed World Diabetes Day on November 14.

Hou Kroeun, deputy country director of the NGO Helen Keller International in Cambodia, said the condition often appeared in overweight people who ate poor diets and did not get enough exercise.

Citing the Global Nutrition Report 2020, he said one in eight children aged between five and 19 are overweight or obese in Cambodia. Two-thirds of deaths were caused by non-communicable diseases, most of them related to diet.

The report found that in 2010, patients with diabetes accounted for 5.2 per cent of all adults. In 2019, the figure had risen to 6.4 per cent. What was even more concerning was that 62 per cent of diabetes patients did not realise they had developed the diabetes.

According to World Life Expectancy, about 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, most of whom reside in low- and middle-income countries. 1.5 million people are pronounced dead from the disease every year.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) said that on average at least 22 people died of diabetes in Cambodia a day in 2019.

“When it comes to the treatment costs of diabetes, the IDF found that one patient paid $238 a year, with all patients spending a total of $102 million in 2019,” it added.

The IDF estimated that in 2030, the treatment cost of diabetes in Cambodia could rise to $145.9 million.

In Cambodia as of July 22 this year, the death toll of diabetes had risen to 8,325, with the number of patients rising to nearly 500,000.

The WHO, the IDF and the UN co-host World Diabetes Day every year to express an increasing concern about the threat to public health and the economy caused by the diabetes.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine has appealed to all Cambodians to take care of their health and participate in the reduction of the risk of diabetes by staying aware of their food consumption in terms of amount and nutritional quality.

The appeal came on World Diabetes Day on November 14, observed this year with the theme: “Education to protect tomorrow”.

“Please pay close attention to your health and participate in the reduction of the risk of diabetes based on important and easy points for daily living practices we all have to adopt,” Vandine said.