Diabetes in India

by Barbara Hewitt on March 9, 2013

People from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka need close monitoring

Diabetes in India

As the problem of diabetes continues to spread around the world, the revelation that 30 million people have now been diagnosed with diabetes in India is a major concern. When you bear in mind the fact that India has a population of around 1 billion people this is a major part of the Indian population. So what is happening with regards to diabetes in India?

Improved diagnosis

It is very difficult to estimate the overall prevalence of diabetes across India with figures of 40 million mentioned by many experts. The fact that the diagnosis of diabetes is better in India than it ever has been has had an impact upon the “diagnosed figure” which has shown a sharp jump from earlier data. However, it is the fact that in excess of 10 million additional people in India may be suffering from diabetes which is causing concern and alarm amongst politicians, businesses and the Indian population.

It is believed that the urban areas of India have been hit hardest from diabetes with estimates that up to 9% of the urban population are already suffering from the full-blown condition. This figure falls to around 3% in the more rural areas although it is difficult to collect reliable data due to the size of rural India and very different lifestyles enjoyed.

Impaired glucose tolerance

While the basic diabetes figures themselves, and the additional 10 million sufferers estimated to be suffering in silence, are very shocking, this is nothing compared to the impaired glucose tolerance figure. The urban areas of India have again been hit hardest at around 8.7% of the population although the figure in the rural areas is not too far behind at 7.9%.

If current data is correct with regards to those suffering impaired glucose tolerance moving towards full-blown diabetes, then we can expect 35% of impaired glucose tolerance sufferers to develop the condition going forward. This would add yet more to the ever-growing number of diabetics across India and place the Indian government in a very difficult situation.

Is this a side-effect of economic growth?

There are many experts who have very different ideas about the increased rate of development with regards to diabetes around the world. There are some who say it is down to diet, some who say it is down to lack of exercise and others who believe it is an overall lifestyle condition. The fact is that while historically diabetes was seen as a condition more prevalent in lower-income families this is not the case today with many higher income families suffering to a similar extent.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “Hi people, I am Akshat from India. I am 28 years old. I am having diabetes since 2 years. However, it is undiagnosed.”

There is no doubt that diets do change as economies grow, as employment opportunities become more available and ultimately as household incomes increase. There is a direct link between diet, exercise and the development of diabetes although trying to find a balance between these elements is not easy.

Indian diabetes sufferers

One thing which is becoming more and more prominent is the fact that there are significantly fewer type I diabetics across India. This condition is particularly rare as the vast majority of cases involve those with type II diabetes. Indeed, in direct comparison to the USA, only one third of diabetics developing type II diabetes are deemed to be overweight or obese which in many ways weakens the argument and the so-called connection between diabetes and diet.

When you take into account that India has a population of 1 billion people and the number of diabetics is already hitting 30 million, we can only estimate what may happen in the future. One thing is for sure, there will be enormous pressure upon the Indian healthcare system in the years to come and unless the government, in conjunction with other governments around the world, is able to change lifestyle habits amongst the Indian population then we are literally looking at a nightmare situation.

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