Nov 13 2006
According to a study by South Korean researchers, the most common form diabetes, type 2, has reached epidemic proportions in Asia.
Of even more concern is that it appears to be affecting people at a younger age than in the West.
The researchers warn that the victims could suffer longer from complications of type 2 diabetes, and die sooner than people in other regions; they suggest that the epidemic could overwhelm healthcare systems in Asia.
The researchers say the increase in type 2 diabetes in Asia differs from that reported in other parts of the world because it has developed in a much shorter time, in a younger age group, and in people with a much lower body mass index.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
The authors lay the blame for the epidemic of the metabolic disease on fast-changing behaviour patterns, such as fast food and a sedentary lifestyle, and say lifestyle modifications need to be made immediately.
The researchers say "preventive action" is urgent and has called on governments to implement well-targeted, clear plans to improve health and lifestyle.
The International Diabetes Foundation says by 2025, 333 million people worldwide will be afflicted with diabetes, up from 194 million now.
Type 2 diabetes mainly develops as a result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
In particular, China and India have the greatest numbers of diabetics and by 2025 they could each have 20 million affected individuals.
In China, the proportion of children aged 7 to 18 years who were obese or overweight increased 28-fold between 1985 and 2000.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, the prevalence rates of type 2 diabetes has increased between 200 percent and 400 percent during the past 30 years.
The World Health Organization says in India it is thought a low-income Indian family with an adult with diabetes, will devote as much as a quarter of the family income to caring for the disease.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, worldwide, about 230 million people have diabetes and the number may exceed 350 million by 2025.
The study is published in the current issue of The Lancet.