Diabetes on the rise in the Czech Republic

Foto: archivo de Radio Praga

Newly released figures suggest that 800,000 Czechs are suffering from diabetes. Recently, the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek revealed that he too suffers from the condition – primarily caused by stress and a poor diet. He immediately announced that he would change his lifestyle. But what of the nearly one in ten Czechs that now also suffer from the condition?

What is causing this alarming increase in diabetes in the Czech Republic? The answer lies with two simple words: food and exercise. Dr Jiří Hradec is the vice-president of the Czech Diabetic Association.

“This is a singular expression of the evolution of modern civilization: less physical exercise and a greater availability of food. And with that comes obesity and also diabetes. It is a problem for all developed countries and primarily in the US and wherever there is a greater availability of food. The Czech Republic is of course no exception to this. Another factor is increasing life span, and we see a greater number of diabetes cases in the elderly.”

And what of Czech specifics? How is it that a nation that likes to feast on pork fat and beer has suddenly developed this problem?

“I think that the only national specific here is the sudden change in behavior of people after 1989 – a change in the way people ate and a greater availability of food. Unfortunately, the problem is greater among the lower social groups which are often lured by McDonalds and other high calorie fast foods and this could be behind a kind of explosive growth that we are seeing here.”

So it seems that sugar, and processed fats are to blame, coupled with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Compared with pork fat, roast duck, fried cheese, beer and other Czech delicacies, appears far more detrimental. Dr Hradec again:

“The Czech diet has historic roots tied to what has been produced here. I wouldn’t say that the diet is inherently unhealthy – we have carrots, cabbage and other vegetables inherent in our diet. Rather, the problem lies with the inordinately large quantity of food that is being eaten. Essentially, we are consuming far more energy than the calories we are able to burn. Thus, the key comes in a greater awareness that exertion is just as important as consumption.”