‘Nsima contributing to diabetes cases’


A research conducted by Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) has established that changes in lifestyle and diet may be contributing to the increased prevalence of diabetes reported at six percent in Malawi.

The research which was conducted in 2015 was done by Vincent Mlotha and others.

It says diabetes cases are high in many low and middle income countries, including Malawi, where the burden of infectious diseases, such as HIV and Aids as well as TB, is already high.


The aim of the study was to investigate glycaemic indices of maize flour stiff porridges, locally known as nsima, to identify areas for improvement in consumer diets.

Glycaemic index is a system that ranks foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on their effect on blood-sugar levels.

The report says food that increases blood glucose level faster after consuming it, is said to have a high glycaemic index.


The findings recommended fermented flour (ufa oyera) to be promoted for the preparation of various maize based foods meant for the diabetics in the country as compared to flour made from dehulled and degermed maize grits (Gramil) and whole maize flour (mgaiwa).

The research also predicted that nsima cooked using the current Malawian maize flours and recipes would continue to raise blood sugar levels in the long-term considering high glycaemic load figures recorded.

The study recommends that people should eat maize-based products in combination with other staples such as cassava, sorghum, and potatoes, at one meal to start with and then slowly increasing the amount of these staples until they are fully incorporated and accepted into their food habits.

The study was published in Food Science and Nutrition Journal by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Mary Shawa, who is a nutritionist also said people need to start producing cassava, potato, millet, sorghum, apart from maize.

“If you ask our grandparents, maize became an issue from 1964. My grandmother told me that they were eating millet, sorghum and potatoes. Maize interferes [with] pancreas function, that is why diabetes in very high in Malawi.

“So in countries where maize diets are an issue, diabetes is also an issue. We should not eat maize everyday. Eat maize products once in a while, we need to eat other foods,” Shawa advises.

College of Medicine Coordinator for Diabetes Care project, Marrianne Kasiya has urged people to be doing exercises once a day or thrice a week.

“If you want to prevent diabetes, you have to live a health life which includes exercises. You also need to eat healthy, like cutting back on sugars, high cabohydrates foods. It is important to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits,” she says.

Latest statistics show that six in every 100 people in Malawi are diabetes sufferers and 3.9 percent of the cases remain undiagnosed.

Nsima is a dish made from maize flour and it is eaten widely across Africa including Malawi.

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