China Faces Diabetes Epidemic After Adopting Western Diet

China suffers from far more cases of diabetes than previously thought, placing its diabetes epidemic on the same scale as that of the United States, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“In the last 10 years, with the country’s economy expanding quickly and people’s standard of living improving, people’s lifestyles have changed,” said co-author Yang Wenying of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing. “China’s economic development has gone from a situation of not being able to eat enough, of poverty, to having enough food and warm clothes, and doing much less exercise.”

Lifestyle changes such as increased urbanization and sedentism and “Western” diets high in fat and junk food have caused an increase in heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other “lifestyle diseases” across China. According to the new findings, there are 92 million diabetics in China, more than twice as many as the 43.2 million recently estimated by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Another 150 million are believed to be pre-diabetic.

This means that 10 percent of Chinese residents are diabetic, while 16 percent are at risk of developing the disease.

The new figures were calculated from a sample of more than 46,000 people over the age of 19, from 14 different provinces and municipalities across China. They launch China into first place as home to the most diabetics in the world, bumping India down to second place. The IDF estimates that 50.8 million Indians are diabetic.

Yet Anoop Misra of New Delhi-based Fortis Healthcare believes that the numbers in India are vastly underestimated as well.

“I feel that India’s diabetes burden too will be a lot more than estimated,” she said. “At present, while 50 million are known to be diabetic, 100 million are at the stage of pre-diabetes in India.”

In both China and India, most cases of diabetes remain undiagnosed and untreated.

Thank you David Gutierrez

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