Muhammad Daniyal Special Correspondent Daily Relation Times Islamabad. Excessive consumption of Sugar and Ultra-Processed foods in our diet has significantly increased the risk of Cardio Vascular Diseases, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity and many other fatal diseases. 2100 people in Pakistan dies due to NCDs daily. Nearly 1100 Pakistanis lost their lives daily due to diabetes or its complications. Pakistan has 3rd highest burden of diabetes worldwide with over 33 million people living with over diabetes. Additional 10 million people are pre-diabetic. If no urgent policy action taken, number of people living with diabetes will increase to 62 million by 2045. Sugary drinks are the major source of sugar intake with 7 to 8 teapoons of sugar in a small glass of 250 ml. Higher taxes on sugary drinks are an evident based policy action to reduce their consumption. Government must impose higher taxes on sugary drinks to reduce their consumption. This was stated by health experts during a session on “policies to combat sugary drinks” organized by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) with its coalition partners at a local hotel in Islamabad. Those who attended the session include Secretary General Diabetic Association of Pakistan Professor Dr. Abdul Basit, Consultant at Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) Mr. Munawar Hussain, Senior Executive Vice President PANAH Dr. Abdul Qayyum Awan, President National Press Club Islamabad Mr. Anwar Raza, General Secretary Pakistan Kidney Patients Welfare Organization Mr. Ghulam Abbas, Ex-Commissioner Mr. Abdul Hafeez, health experts, representatives of civil society and media. General Secretary Pakistan National Heart Association Mr. Sanaullah Ghumman hosted the event.
Professor Dr. Abdul Basit said that Pakistan is facing a rapid increase in non-communicable diseases specially diabetes. Pakistan has the 3rd highest burden of diabetes worldwide and if no immediate policy action taken number of people living with diabetes will increase to 62 million by 2045. One of the major reasons of this swift increase in diabetes is our unhealthy dietary patterns. High consumption of sugary drinks has increased significantly in Pakistan. These drinks are very high in sugar. A small glass (250 ml) of sugary drinks contains 7 to 8 teaspoons of sugar leads to obesity, type 2 Diabetes, and many other fatal diseases. We are now in emergency like situation and government shall take immediate policy action to tax sugary drinks.
Mr. Munawar Hussain said that 60 % of all deaths in Pakistan are due to non-communicable diseases. One of the major dietary risks of NCDs are high consumption of trans fatty acids, sugar and sodium and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. Taxes on sweet drinks and front of pack nutrition labels on ultra-processed foods are the evidence based strategies to reduce the consumption of these unhealthy foods. He said that the revenue generated by taxing the sugary drinks must be earmarked to promote healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and in public health programs.
Professor Dr. Shakeel Ahmed Mirza said that from 2011 to 2016 obesity has doubled in children. Consumption of sugary drinks has increased manifold in recent years posing a serious threat to health of children. She emphasized for a country wide campaign to aware general public on health risks associated with high consumption of sugary drinks and demanded government to take appropriate policy measure to reduce the intake of these unhealthy foods to save our children that are future of our country.
Mr. Anwar Raza said that PANAH is doing a remarkable work on a very serious issue of National health and every one shall support this cause. He said that media stands with PANAH for this cause.
Mr. Sanaullah Ghumman highlighted PANAH’s four decade-long commitment to raising awareness about public health. The organization collaborates with policymakers to formulate policies aimed at reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods. While acknowledging the success achieved in 2023 with the increased taxes on sugary drinks, he emphasized the need for further action. PANAH is advocating for a 50% tax on SSBs. He said that we believe on coalitions and today health experts, civil society and media jointly request government to take immediate policy action to reduce the consumption of these unhealthy drinks.
Other speakers echoed these sentiments, highlighting the health hazards of SSBs and calling for effective policy actions to reduce their consumption.
Dr. Abdul Qayyum Awan thanked all the participants to stand with PANAH to reduce disease burden in Pakistan

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