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The Surge in Sugar: Tracing India's Epidemic Journey to Becoming the Diabetic Capital

Updated: Feb 20

India - Diabetic Capital

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay


India's metamorphosis into the diabetic capital of the world reflects a complex interplay of genetic predisposition, lifestyle changes, and dietary habits. Over the past century, the country has witnessed a surge in Type 2 diabetes cases, emerging as a public health crisis with wide-ranging consequences.

 

What is disheartening however is that a vast majority of them only believe in pills and injections without endeavouring to learn about complementary strategies.  There are also far too many diabetics with a narrow perspective that all they need to do is avoid refined sugar and white rice.  There are holistic approaches which incorporate not only traditional medical interventions but also psychological and alternative therapies concomitant with diet control.  I will be elaborating on these in my following article.

 

Historical Context and Growth Over the Last Century:

 

To understand the rise of diabetes in India, it’s pivotal to look back at the last hundred years. In the early 20th century, diabetes was a disease of affluence, mostly affecting the urban elite. However, extensive urbanization and economic development have altered the population’s lifestyle and diet, substantially contributing to the escalation of diabetes prevalence. One key study noted a stark increase in diabetes prevalence from nearly 2% in urban areas and 1.2% in rural areas in the 1970s, skyrocketing to over 15% and 7% respectively by the late 2010s (Gupta, V. et al., 2019; Diabetes in Developing Countries, Journal of Diabetes).

 

Causes and Contributing Factors:

 

There are several contributing factors to India's diabetes epidemic:

 

- Genetic Predisposition: Research indicates that South Asians have a higher insulin resistance and a propensity to store fat viscerally, making them more susceptible to diabetes at lower levels of obesity compared to other ethnic groups (Yajnik, C. S., 2004; The 'thin-fat' Indian, Indian Heart Journal).

 

- Dietary Shift: The increased consumption of refined sugars, processed foods, and high-calorie diets play a critical role. The traditional Indian diet, once rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, has been overtaken by fast foods and sweetened beverages, exacerbating the diabetes trend (Misra, A. et al., 2011; Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome in Developing Countries, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism).

 

- Sedentary Lifestyle: With urbanization, physical activity has decreased. Jobs have become more desk-bound, and leisure activities more sedentary, contributing to the rise in obesity and diabetes cases (Anjana, R. M. et al., 2017; Physical Activity and Inactivity Patterns in India, The British Journal of Sports Medicine).

 

Current Scenario and Dietary Complications:

 

The food industry’s marketing strategies, promoting high-calorie foods, combined with a lack of awareness, have led to poor dietary choices among the Indian population. The love for sweets and deep-fried snacks, integral to Indian cuisine, is now complemented with sugary drinks and fast food. These dietary choices are exacerbating the diabetes situation (Sicree, R. et al., 2006; Diabetes and Impaired Glucose Tolerance in India, IDF Diabetes Atlas).

 

Preventive Measures and Solutions:

 

Combatting this epidemic requires a multi-faceted approach:

 

- Nutrition Education: Implementing nation-wide programs to educate the population about the importance of balanced diets and the risks associated with unhealthy eating habits.

 

- Promoting Physical Activity: Encouraging regular physical exercise through public health campaigns and provision of community spaces for exercise.

 

- Medical Infrastructure: Strengthening the healthcare system to provide early diagnosis and effective treatment for diabetes.

 

- Policy Intervention: Government policies to regulate the food industry, reduce sugar content in processed foods, and make healthy food choices more accessible and affordable.

 

- Complementary Strategies: Ayurvedic and Herbal medicines, Yoga, HypnoNLP can help in a major way, especially in the early days.

 

Conclusion:

 

The diabetes epidemic in India is a loud wake-up call necessitating urgent public health interventions. A combination of informed dietary choices, lifestyle modifications, and robust healthcare policies is paramount to turn the tide against this chronic condition and curtail India's trajectory as the diabetic capital of the world.


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