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World Diabetes Day: India’s growing crisis

A street stall in Delhi selling soft drinks. Increased availability of sugary drinks and other foodstuffs are linked to the country’s diabetes crisis.

Some regard India to be the diabetes capital of the world, its diabetic population outweighing the entire population of some nations. With November 14th marking World Diabetes Day, it provides an opportunity for India to appraise its diabetes crisis. 

According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects 8.8 percent of India’s adult population with 72,946,400 cases in 2017. By 2045, the number of diabetes cases in the southeast Asia region will increase to 151 million compared to 82 million at present according to the Federation. India will see 98.0 million cases of type-2 diabetes alone by 2030 according to some estimates with some estimates anticipating an overall total of 134 million diabetes cases by just 2025 – such numbers reflecting India being a driver of the southeast Asia region’s growing diabetes crisis. The disease is one of the fastest-growing conditions in the country.

Lifestyle factors amplifying the risk for diabetes are on the rise in India, obesity in particular. This is driven by the increased availability of sugary food and drinks and fast food enabling increasing numbers of people to consume ‘westernised’ diets, coupled with more Indians living sedentary lifestyles foregoing physical activity. The Government of India are taking steps to address these issues, encouraging Indians to ‘eat right’ and exercise more through its ‘Fit India’ campaign. 

Habits are not the only driver behind India’s diabetes crisis. There exists within the region a genetic predisposition towards developing diabetes, with unhealthy lifestyles exacerbating this state of affairs in what Health Issues India previously described as “a ticking time bomb.” In some respects, this bomb has already exploded with significant numbers of Indians already affected by the disease and it magnifying overall health and wellbeing on factors ranging from heart disease to eye health.

World Diabetes Day is a reminder of how significant the footprint of diabetes is in India and how it is posed to grow in the coming years. The groundwork has been laid for this explosion, with ten percent of Indian youth aged ten to nineteen being prediabetic. Unless careful management of lifestyles is practised with awareness raised among the populace and provisions for treatment ensured, the crisis will only worsen. 

60.5 percent of diabetics in India do not properly control their blood sugar, enhancing the risk of complications. To prevent the country’s health crisis due to diabetes from worsening, such trends need to be counteracted – from improper handling of the condition itself to the risk factors which leave Indians susceptible.

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