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20 July 2009
Toronto, Canada

India faces an imminent threat from type–2 diabetes and heart problems arising from it, an Indian–origin expert based in Canada has warned
Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in India, and the country faces huge health, social and economic consequences from it, warns an Indian–origin expert based in Canada.

Sonia Anand, who is leading an international study on diabetes and is Associate Professor in Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton near here, said India faces an imminent threat from type–2 diabetes and heart problems arising from it.

“India is sitting on diabetes time–bomb and it is ticking very fast,” she said.

In type–2 diabetes, glucose or sugar builds up in blood rather than getting used by the body. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are said to be its leading causes.

“In fact, I should say it is already an epidemic with 40 million type 2 diabetics in India,” Anand said, reports IANS.

“India already has the largest number of diabetics in the world, and the situation is going to get worse,” she warned.

“The World Health Organisation and the International Diabetes Federation have already warned that the disease has become an epidemic in India.”

Anand, who is heading the world's largest study of genetic causes of diabetes in adults, said, “Since diabetes is the leading cause of heart diseases, India also faces an epidemic of heart problems. So the burden of chronic disease among adults will skyrocket.”

Asked why Indians and South Asians are more prone to diabetes, she said, “Indians are very sensitive to weight gain which leads to metabolic changes such as increased blood sugar and cholesterol –it is likely some combination of genetics and diet.”

She said there is a combination of factors behind the disease, and diet could be one of them.

“As part of our research, we are trying to understand the role diet plays in diabetes among South Asians who traditionally consume more ghee and fried foods.”

One thing is clear: once you develop weight, you develop obesity which is the key factor in developing diabetes, she added.

She feared that the rapid urbanisation of India would play a major role in the spread of diabetes and heart diseases.

“The urban life is a high risk factor in it. It is a difficult problem, but people should be informed about the risk of gaining weight and encouraged to walk and eat modestly.”

Abandoning of the old Indian lifestyle was definitely a contributory factor in modern–day diseases like diabetes and heart problems, she said.

“Walking, extensive family and social networks and eating home–cooked food prepared by a mother was beneficial, and Indians should continue those old practices,” Anand said.

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