After an extensive nationwide survey, China has more than doubled the estimate of its diabetic people to 92.4 million from 43.2 million in 2009, thus replacing India as the country with the maximum number of diabetics in the world.
India has 50.8 million people with diabetes.
The China study, published in New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday pushes up the global diabetes estimates from 285 million to 334.2 million.
Diabetes was almost 1.4 times more common among urban residents than rural ones, the study found, sampling 46,239 adults above the age of 20, from 14 provinces and municipalities.
“The ageing of the population, urbanisation, nutritional changes and decreasing levels of physical activity, with a consequent epidemic of obesity, have probably contributed to the rapid increase in the diabetes burden in the Chinese population,” wrote Yang Wenying, head of endocrinology, at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, who carried out the study between June 2007 and May 2008.
Another 148.2 million people had pre-diabetes, which is higher-than-normal blood glucose levels, the study found.
“Diabetes is also under-reported in India and we need a similar study to get the numbers right, not just for diabetes but also pre-diabetes, which doubles heart disease risk,” said Dr Anoop Mishra, director, diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis Hospitals and the Diabetes Foundation of India.
“Since pre-diabetes prevalence is usually almost double of diabetes, even going by current estimates for India, there are 150 million people with impaired glucose tolerance. To contain this, there is urgent need for a national diabetes control programme,” said Dr Misra.
Diabetes affects 7 per cent of the world’s adult population, with more than half the world’s diabetics aged between 20 and 60. In most cases, it can be prevented through regular exercise and proper diet.