The number of diagnosed cases of diabetes is on the rise in Nunavut, where it used to be well under the national average.

Erika Weidl, a registered dietician with the Nunavut Government, says according to the National Diabetes Surveillance System in March 2010, three per cent of Nunavummiut were living with diabetes — an increase from one or two per cent in previous years.

That is still under the national average of 6.2 per cent, depending on which numbers you look at.


Kootoo Onalik, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last December, says he used to drink three to four cans of pop a day. (CBC)

"We do have information from the Inuit health survey and for that survey they actually tested [the] blood sugar of people, and they found that six per cent of participants had blood sugar levels that were high enough to be pre-diabetes or diabetes."

Weidl said the increase in the number of cases could be due to the lifestyle changes in recent decades as more store bought, processed foods became incorporated into people's diets.

One of the main culprits of the rise in Nunavut diabetes is pop. One can of cola contains eight packets of sugar, and drinking one can of pop a day for a year is the equivalent of consuming more than 14 kilograms of sugar.

"The main thing that kind of ruined my life was pop," said Kootoo Onalik, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last December.

Before he was diagnosed, the CBC radio technician drank three to four cans of pop a day.

"My eyes were starting to get worse and I was taking these pops and sleeping and naps," he said.

Onalik decided to see a doctor and had blood and urine tests done.

Then he started seeing a dietician regularly. He cut out pop and started eating healthy foods and lost a lot of weight.

Weidl said dropping the sugary drinks is one big change people can make that could decrease their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

She says to follow the Nunavut food guide and choose country foods as often as possible.