One in every seven people screened for diabetes in Maharashtra’s cities is at risk of developing the lifestyle disease, an ongoing study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has revealed.
Doctors said the study’s finding of 15.2% urban residents being pre-diabetic — when screened, they had fasting sugar levels between 110 and 125 units — is worrying and is a sign the incidence of the disease could go up in the future. Some 10.9% of Maharashtra’s population already battles diabetes. The ICMR study is the first to find out if there is a difference in the number of people with diabetes in urban and rural areas.
For this, it looked at Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Chandigarh.
While more people in the cities have diabetes, the villages are not far behind.
“Rural areas are fast catching up,” said Dr V Mohan, the principal investigator of the study. Dr Mohan said in rural Maharashtra, 11% of the people screened were pre-diabetic.
“Villagers are being exposed to more junk food and better transportation. They will walk less, and eat more junk, all of which will easily covert them to diabetics,” said Dr Mohan, adding India has the second-highest conversion rate from pre-diabetic to diabetics, according to another study.
This conversion of pre-diabetics, said Dr Mohan, needs to be halted urgently.
“Seventy percent of Indians stay in rural areas, where even a marginal increase in diabetes would drive up incidence rate of diabetes in India.”
According to recent estimates by the World Health Organisation, 8% of India’s population is diabetic, and 2% of all deaths could be attributed to the lifestyle disease.
Dr Shahshank Joshi, an endocrinologist in Mumbai said variation in the food consumed says a lot about the likelihood of developing diabetes.
“There are geographical variations in the prevalence of diabetes, as the food consumed in the north is different from the south. The protein-carbohydrate ratio differs in every region,” he said.
But it’s not all bad news for the pre-diabetics. Losing weight, walking at least 30 minutes a day and improving diets can help prevent the disease, doctors said.
The ICMR study is mapping the prevalence of diabetes across the country. So far, Tamil Nadu tops the list in prevalence, with 13.7% diabetics living in the state that has just 6% of the country’s population.
Data from 15 states is being analysed, with the states in the north-east showing lower prevalence when compared to Bihar and Jharkhand.
Doctors privy to the data said even rural pockets of Jharkhand is showing a high prevalence of diabetes, indicative of the urbanisation and the subsequent changes in lifestyle and food habits.