Does it come as a surprise that a 2013 study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington revealed that 17% of adults in Bangladesh are either overweight or obese? Perhaps not, for our daily staple consists of carbs and oily foods.
Worldwide, 1 in 3 adults are overweight, and 1 in 10 adults are obese, according to WHO. Overweight and obese individuals are at a greater risk of developing type diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and cancer too; thus, immediate measures need to be taken to address the issue. In Bangladesh, 17% of deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases, while 10% deaths are caused by cancers, reports WHO. That is more than a quarter of the population whose deaths are caused by diseases or complications possibly resulting from overweight and obesity.
We know that exercise and diet are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, people are becoming more health conscious and are aware of the consequences of an unhealthy diet. It’s no secret that sugar, excess oil, and carbs are bad for us, hence people are either cutting these out of their diets or looking for alternatives. Consuming less oil is doable, as is eating less carbohydrate or eating low GI carbs instead of high GI; but for people with a sweet tooth, it’s not easy to cut out sugar from their diets. Thankfully though, there are alternatives to sugar, both artificial and natural.
Foods like honey, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates etc are naturally sweet and contain high sugar. While these can be used to curb your sweet cravings from time to time, they cannot be used in all foods like tea, coffee, lemonade, or for baking desserts. To find a sugar substitute that can be used in anything, artificial sweeteners had been developed. To name a few, aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and neotame are all artificial sugar substitutes that are chemically synthesized; the sweetness is added, calories are reduced while containing significantly less food energy. Many people opt for artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, and while this seems like a great alternative, what people don’t understand is the detrimental long-term health problems this can cause.
Thankfully, Mother Nature has introduced Stevia, a healthy option for a natural sweetener. Stevia rebaudiana is a plant species that is native to South America. It’s naturally grown there and has been used as a sweetener by the indigenous people of South America for hundreds of years. It’s only a matter of the last few decades that they have been commercially used in other parts of the world. The extract from stevia plant is 200 times sweeter than sugar and contains zero sugar, calories, and carbohydrates. This is Mother Nature’s answers to all the aforementioned problems. Its success in the West has now led to making its way to the East; therefore local Bangladeshi companies are also making stevia.
Is this the solution to Bangladesh’s growing obesity and cardiovascular diseases? We are hopeful.