NEW DELHI: Some 11 per cent of Indians are diabetic, a government study found, adding that diabetes, hypertension and obesity are much more common in India than previously estimated.
A study also showed that 136 million Indians are pre-diabetic, 213 million people live with high cholesterol, 185 million suffer from high LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol, while 254 million live with generalised obesity and 351 million have abdominal obesity.
The ICMR-India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB) study is based on a survey of 113,043 people — 33,537 urban and 79,506 rural populace — aged 20 years and older, between 2008 and 2020. The survey covered people from urban and rural areas of 31 states, union territories, and the National Capital Territory of India.
“Non-communicable disease (NCD) rates are rapidly increasing in India with wide regional variations. We aimed to quantify the prevalence of metabolic NCDs in India and analyse interstate and inter-regional variations,” said researchers, including Ranjit Mohan Anjana, from Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, ICMR-Chennai.
All metabolic NCDs such as obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidaemia, except prediabetes, were more frequent in urban than rural areas. In many states with a lower human development index, the ratio of diabetes to prediabetes was less than one.
Further, the study showed that some states like Kerala, Puducherry, Goa, Sikkim, and Punjab had the highest prevalence of NCDs as compared to others.
The prevalence of diabetes, in particular, was found to be highest in the southern and northern regions of India, with urban areas having a high incidence rate. On the other hand, the central and northeastern regions had lower prevalence.
High blood pressure was highly prevalent in the urban areas and across the country except central India.
“The prevalence of diabetes and other metabolic NCDs in India is considerably higher than previously estimated. While the diabetes epidemic is stabilising in the more developed states of the country, it is still increasing in most other states,” the researchers said.
Substantial population at risk
“Thus, there are serious implications for the nation, warranting urgent state-specific policies and interventions to arrest the rapidly rising epidemic of metabolic NCDs in India,” they added.
“It is quite evident from the study results that India has a substantial population at risk of cardiovascular disease and other long-term organ complications,” R.S. Dhaliwal, head of the non-communicable diseases division at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said in a statement.
ICMR, which funded the study, estimates that India - the world’s most populous country - has 101 million people with diabetes.
That is 36 per cent more than a 2021 estimate of 74.2 million people by the International Diabetes Federation.
The Indian government says unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity as well as the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco are factors behind the rise in cases of diabetes.
India’s health secretary said last month that the “lifestyle of a large section of the population has become more sedentary than before” and that the burden of metabolic diseases was growing.
The US National Clinical Care Commission has also estimated that about 11 per cent of the US population has diabetes.