KAMARA DANIEL: Street foods and non-communicable diseases

By Kamara Daniel

Non-communicable diseases are diseases that can’t be transmitted from one person to another. They can also be known as lifestyle or chronic diseases.33% of total deaths in Uganda are because of NCDs and the probability of a Ugandan citizen to die prematurely from one of the four main NCDs is 22%. (WHO, 2023)

Examples of non-communicable diseases include the following:

Preventable cancers:  Cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that can invade and damage surrounding tissues. There are numerous types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate, and skin cancer. Risk factors include genetics, exposure to carcinogens (like tobacco and certain chemicals), and lifestyle factors.

Diabetes: is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body doesn’t produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, more common, occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin effectively. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to various complications affecting the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and cardiovascular system

Chronic respiratory diseases: They affect the airways and lung function, often resulting in breathing difficulties, coughing, and reduced physical activity tolerance. Smoking, environmental factors, and genetics can contribute to these diseases.  Apple skin is found to be rich in anti-oxidant quercetin which helps to reduce inflammation in the lungs caused by smoking. Beets and tomatoes are some of the foods recommended for consumption in chronic respiratory diseases.

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs): This category includes conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. These conditions often result from factors like poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking, and genetic predisposition.

Non-communicable diseases are caused by some of the following;

  • Unhealthy Diets: Diets high in processed foods, sugary beverages, and excessive fats can contribute to the development of NCDs.
  • smoking
  • Physical inactivity; increases one’s risk of getting Non-communicable diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases.
  • genetic factors
  • Environmental Factors: Pollution, exposure to harmful chemicals, and other environmental factors can contribute to the development of NCDs.
  • Harmful use of alcohol; Alcohol is broken down mostly in the liver after drinking and comes in many forms: beer, wine, spirits, and homebrew.
  • Continuous heavy alcohol drinking may cause fatty liver, hepatitis, liver cancer (cirrhosis) and other cancers.
  • Heavy alcohol drinking can also cause serious problems to other body organs as it can as well lead to other nutrient deficiencies in the body such as thiamine deficiency.

Common characteristics of NCDS

  • Start from an unhealthy lifestyle
  • They cannot be transmitted from one person to another
  • They grow slowly and persist for long
  • They affect important organs
  • In most cases, symptoms present when it’s too late
  • Symptoms and signs may or may not present initially

Street foods

This is any ready-to-eat food sold by vendors in a street or any public location. Thailand is the country most popular for street food and many tourists visit the country to have a taste of this cheap and delicious food. (Global gluttons, 2023)

Examples of popular street foods in Uganda

  • muchomo
  • chapati
  • fried cassava
  • samosas
  • African tea
  • roasted cassava
  • kikomando
  • Rolex
  • pancakes
  • fried fish

Intake of Street food in Uganda (A case study of Kampala)

  • For a study carried out in Kampala;
  • The majority of individuals in town setting opt for street food at breakfast (50%), Lunch and snacks were at 20% overall. In this study, men demonstrated more dietary intake from street foods than women
  • Street foods contribute significantly to the diet intake of urban consumers (Wenceslaus, Nicholas, & Alizon, 2020)

Contribution of street foods to the diet of habitual consumers

  • Habitual street food consumption is where one consumes street food greater or equal to two days per week.
  • Majority contribution to daily intake was with fat at 49.1%, Sodium at 38.4% and least contribution was towards Vitamin A.

Reasons to why people consume street foods

  • They are cheap options
  • Saves a lot of time
  • Since they are prepared Infront of the individual, so one gets a feeling of safety
  • Local Culture: Street foods often reflect the local culture and traditions of a region, offering an authentic taste of the area’s cuisine
  • Convenience: Street foods are easily accessible and often quick to prepare, making them a convenient option for busy individuals.

Dangers posed by the continued consumption of street foods

  • Street foods may not always be prepared and stored in hygienic conditions, leading to a higher risk of foodborne illnesses.
  • Lack of Nutritional Information
  • Excessive Salt, Sugar, and Fat
  • Cross-Contamination: Improper handling and cooking of street foods.

Relevance of nutrition in the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases.

  • Balanced Diet: Consuming a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide essential nutrients and reduce the risk of NCDs.
  • Reducing Salt and Sugar: Limiting the intake of salt (sodium) and added sugars can help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity-related issues like diabetes.
  • Healthy Fats: Choosing healthy fats like those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish can promote heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Fibre Intake: High-fiber foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, can help maintain a healthy weight, regulate blood sugar levels, and support digestive health.
  • Limiting Processed Foods: Processed and ultra-processed foods often contain high levels of unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium. Reducing their consumption can help lower the risk of various NCDs.
  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: For those who drink alcohol, it’s important to do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of liver disease, certain cancers, and other health issues.
  • Hydration: Drinking an adequate amount of water is important for overall health and can help prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
  • Portion Control: Paying attention to portion sizes can help prevent overeating and maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces one’s risk of developing NCDs. Having excess fat in an unhealthy weight reduces one’s immunity to other diseases as well.
  • Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, leafy greens, and colorful vegetables, can help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They help fight off free radicals that may damage the cells and their DNA which would allow the production of abnormal cells. (cancer cells)

In conclusion, choice of food to take in by individuals will greatly affect their overall health and thus caution to make right food choice must be taken to prevent and also manage Non-Communicable diseases.

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Kamara Daniel is a Clinical Nutritionist, Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre. Tel: 0789407848

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