Over 17 percent of Tunisian adults suffer from diabetes, more than twice the international average, according to a newly released statement from the Ministry of Health.
The statement was released in conjunction with “World Diabetes Day,” as part of a national campaign to raise awareness on the disease and its impact. The statement noted that it is important for individuals to be tested for diabetes, as a large number of people suffer from the condition without being aware of it. The Ministry will be providing free testing centers throughout the country, it went on to note.
Contacted by Tunisia Live, Dr. Dora Kaffala, an endocrinologist who specializes in the treatment of hormonal imbalances, said that while no evidence suggests certain societies are more susceptible to the disease than others, the high rate of diabetes in Tunisia is likely related to people’s lifestyle.
“Tunisians are very sedentary,” Kaffala said. “They work all day and often eat sandwiches and fast food.”
Tunisian food in general is high in calories and replete in fat, Kafalla noted, which is unhealthy in large quantities for those with diabetes.
“The golden rule is to avoid food that is too salty, too sweet, or too fat,” she said.
Kafalla also said that Ramadan–the month-long interval where Muslims are encouraged to refrain from food or drink during daylight hours–presents particular health challenges for those with diabetes, especially among the undiagnosed.
Diabetes, a long-term condition that impairs the body’s ability to produce insulin, is one of the most common illnesses in the world, affecting over 400 million people worldwide. Type 1 Diabetes is more severe, and symptoms can appear abruptly, in a matter of days or weeks.
Early symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, feelings of extreme thirst or hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision.
The condition can be managed by taking regular injections of insulin, as well as maintaining a health diet and lifestyle.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.