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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10am

'Catastrophe' as 114 million Chinese suffer diabetes thanks to economic boom

Shocking survey shows 11.6pc of people suffer from rampant diet-related disease, with around one third of the world's diabetics living in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 3:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 September, 2013, 7:42am

About 11.6 per cent of adults in mainland China, or 114 million people, suffer from diabetes, a comprehensive nationwide survey on the disease shows.

It means that almost one in three diabetes sufferers globally is in China, a development one world expert on the disease called a catastrophe. It is now more common in China than in the US, where 11.3 per cent of adults are diabetic.

The number of diabetics on the mainland shot up by 22 million, the equivalent of Australia's population, between 2007 and 2010, according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Rapid changes in lifestyle are the key factor. American diabetics are usually overweight, but those on the mainland are not, the researchers found.

"Diabetes may have reached an alert level in the Chinese general population, with the potential for a major epidemic of diabetes-related complications, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease," wrote the research team, led by Guang Ning from the laboratory for endocrine and metabolic diseases at the Ministry of Health.

"Poor nutrition in utero and in early life combined with overnutrition in later life may contribute to the accelerated epidemic of diabetes in China."

The report is based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 98,658 adults in 2010. A similar survey in 2007 pegged diabetes prevalence at 9.7 per cent, or 92.4 million adults.

Almost two-thirds of patients treated for diabetes did not have adequate blood-sugar control, the authors found. For every mainlander diagnosed with diabetes, at least two more will be unaware they have it.

"China is now among the countries with the highest diabetes prevalence in Asia and has the largest absolute disease burden of diabetes in the world," the researchers wrote.

Dr Chan Wing-bun, clinical director of Chinese University of Hong Kong's Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, said: "The most alarming part of the finding is the extremely rapid increase."

Chan said that when a poor society becomes richer, changes in diet and lifestyle mean that many people will develop diabetes. After a while, people become health-conscious and the rate falls.

He took Hong Kong as an example. The rate increased in the 1980s and 1990s, reaching about 10 per cent. But the most recent survey, conducted in 2004, saw a drop to seven per cent.

Asians have been shown to be more prone to diabetes than Westerners. Scientists have suggested that insulin cell function is weaker in Asians, said Chan.

The average body mass index, or BMI, in diabetics in the study was 23.7, compared with 28.7 in the US.

As in the rest of Asia, the young and middle-aged were most at risk, the study found. Pre-diabetes, or those on the verge of developing diabetes, was present in 40 per cent of adults aged 18 to 29, and 47 per cent among those 30 to 39.

"The alarmingly high figures for pre-diabetes are very scary," said Juliana Chan, a professor of medicine and therapeutics at Chinese University who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "A lot of people think diabetes is a disease that mainly affects the elderly, but we have a very unhealthy young population that may lose their ability to work in the prime of their lives, and this would also have an impact on their families and on society," she said.

Paul Zimmet, honorary president of the International Diabetes Federation, said diabetes in China had become a "catastrophe". He said the increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the country was "unparalleled globally".

"The booming economy in China has brought with it a medical problem which could bankrupt the health system," said Zimmet. "The big question is the capacity in China to deal with a problem of such magnitude."

China's diabetes-related medical costs were estimated at 173.4 billion yuan (HK$214 billion) a year in 2010. The rising trend has strained health services and helped fuel growth in drug sales of 20 per cent a year.

Costs are expected to skyrocket in the next 10 to 20 years as the millions of sufferers seek treatment and care for related ailments such as kidney failure, stroke and blindness.


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This article is now closed to comments

I love Harry's Cartoonist Views! Thanks always for amusing.
You know what, diabetes is just one thing, but there are more and bigger troubles to come in people's health if the country doesn't do something concrete real quick. Money and fame are nothing if you have a whole bunch of sick countrymen year round.
It is not only the heavy and greedy eaters but the heavy smokers and drinkers present in China as well and they do it as if there is no tomorrow until one day the problems cometh and their reckoning is too late and incurable. The Austerity Measures recently implemented will help but the damage is long established and deeply rooted. By the way diabetes is just one of the types of ill effects due the above as there are many others coming along as your body gets weaker and older. God Bless.
I wrote many articles related obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions. My last article on obesity is “Taiwan's two great beauty Lin Ching Hsia and Hu Yin-meng is also obesity and various diseases and cancer if the U.S. fast-food chains have in Taiwan?" 臺灣二大美女林青霞及胡茵夢是不也 肥胖及各種疾病和癌症等如 果美國快餐連鎖店已在台灣? (both English and Chinese versions) ? In both Jennie PC Chiang Facebook or World Journal世界部落格 Jenne’s Blog or JenniePCChiang Blog.
The children in the picture in my opinion are obese. I realize even that people in Taiwan entertainment are out of shape or chunky. For some waist looks like a bucket, no curves, they might eat too much American-style fast food. Some Americans attacked pop star Lady Gaga gaining too much weight. "not a suitable example for the community's young people.”
In my opinion, people do not realize that their health is directly related to their forever young and beautiful appearance. Besides, overweight can shorten your lifespan! Overweight persons, and not just those who were obese, may also be subjected to increased risk of premature death as obesity linked directly to health problems. Obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions that may result in a higher development of heart disease, diabetes or cancer risk and so on. Diet and exercise are the main factors to prevent weight gain. Taiwan 's traditional diet which is usually a lot of vegetables and fruits are very healthy food.
Jennie PC Chiang/江佩珍 09/04/13 美國
dude take your meds... i thought your english was bad but you could speak chinese... your chinese also makes no sense whatsoever...
This from SCMP 2013 06 04
Study finds air pollution increases insulin resistance and diabetes risk
"Exposure to air pollution raises the risk of resistance to insulin, a typical warning sign of diabetes, according to a study of almost 400 German 10-year-olds.
Insulin resistance climbed by 17 per cent for every 10.6 micrograms per cubic metre increase in ambient nitrogen dioxide and by 19 per cent for every 6 micrograms per cubic metre increase in particulate matter. "
I just looked at the figures for Chengdu, Guangzhou and Beijing US Consulates/Embassy Air Quality Indexes. They were 74, 79 and 111 respectively. Acceptable air quality would be around 10 or 15. So using 10 as the standard for acceptable and using Beijing's 111 as pretty close to the average, much of the increase in diabetes may be related to air pollution.
What other factors could have produced the high diabetes in China. I travel to both China and the U.S. I don't think China is less active than the U.S. , I don't think their diet is worse. I know they are not more obese. Outside of pollution I can't think of another factor than would produce such a high diabetes rate in China.
It is hard to talk to parents and Grandparents, tell them not overfeeding their kids and babies. Many of the older generations live in a time where food was limited and expensive and who had enough food was wealthy. So fat people are regarded as wealthy and powerful until they get sick.
For the Chinese, being fat also means having enough to eat and that means a sign of prosperity! Being fat is perceived as healthy and strong ... isn't that in the culture, especially among the older generation? Hence thoughts of illness will not be on their mind. But 15% of those who have diabetes are thin & look fit! Having chronic stress, no time to sleep & rest (smartphones addict), yo-yo dieting all wreak havoc on the body's cortisol - which is a sugar mobilizing/balancing hormone.
If you eat rubbish you will get ill in the long run, it doesn't matter how much money you have.
People need to realise that they should eat for longevity, not to satisfy their wants.


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