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Understanding Diabetes In South India: Causes And Consequences Of This Epidemic

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In 2021, more than 720 million people were suffering from prediabetes and the number is estimated to reach 1 billion by 2045. Diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus or DM) has become a public health issue and a ticking bomb, especially in a country like India which has a population exceeding the 1.417 billion mark and counting. Several studies indicate a link between diabetes and how it affects demographics such as people residing in South India and why we have seen an exceptional rise in its prevalence.

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Here, we will discuss the numbers at which the Indian population is developing diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as well as the causes and consequences it might unfold. Understanding the same should help take preventative measures necessary.

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Diabetes in South India is a ‘ticking bomb’

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation conducted a study involving 113,000 participants across all states of India aged 20 and above. The study published in ‘The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology’ found out that more than 101 million people are suffering from diabetes while a ginormous 136 million people could be suffering from pre-diabetes that has the potential to convert into diabetes in the next five years. Here, Type 2 Diabetes is currently the most common of them all.

The study links diabetes and its prevalence in the South Indian states with Goa taking the largest piece at 26.4% followed by Puducherry at 26.3% and Kerala at 25.5%. Around 15-19% of the people living in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh are struggling with diabetes and other NCDs such as hypertension, LDL and HDL cholesterol.

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Causes of Diabetes in South India

Genetic Makeup

A research paper titled ‘Genetics of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus’ published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found signs linking South Indians to specific genetic predispositions to diabetes making them highly susceptible to developing diabetes in South India compared to many other regions. Additionally, environmental factors contribute to and accelerate the risk as well.

Dietary Habits

If you look at the dietary habits of those residing in or from the Southern states of India, it is usually high in carbohydrates such as rice, sambar, dosa, idli, etc. The addition of western fast food including burgers, fried snacks, pizzas, beverages, etc., with high amounts of unhealthy fats and sugar content, can lead to obesity, a major factor leading to diabetes in South India.

Some of the food items mentioned above have high glycemic index which means they tend to spike blood sugar levels rapidly after converting into glucose in the body. Continuing to eat such food can contribute to insulin resistance where the cells, liver, muscles, and fat are unable to take off adequate glucose from the body contributing to higher blood sugar.

Lower fibre intake can cause poor glycemic control, and items that are rich in sugar, etc, are also responsible for adding a few extra kilos to your body weight leading to obesity that later translates into cardiovascular diseases.

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Sedentary Lifestyle

This is particularly an issue with most people and not just limited to South Indians. It is a major factor that sparks the ongoing diabetic epidemic in South India and elsewhere.

Decreased physical activities, lack of exercise, increased use of motor transport, etc., leads to weight gain and ultimately, obesity. A sedentary lifestyle can also impair insulin sensitivity wherein the insulin loses the ability to affect blood glucose as otherwise intended. Relying on fast foods, processed foods and those with high-caloric amounts and sugar content can have adverse effects on the body as well.

Body Composition

According to a study published in NCBI, the body composition of South Indians involves a higher percentage of body fat, particularly visceral fat when compared to other ethnic groups. Visceral fat is a stubborn type of fat that is accumulated around internal organs. It is metabolically active meaning it has an impact on the body’s metabolism compared to subcutaneous fat which lies just beneath the skin. Visceral fat is linked to disturbing insulin sensitivity and thus, the patient ends up with a high risk of diabetes in South India.

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Consequences of Diabetes in South India

The ongoing rate of people developing diabetes in South India is alarming. As aforementioned, more than 136 million people are suffering from pre-diabetes which is a stage just before diabetes swings into action. Following are some of the consequences that are linked to the diabetes epidemic.

Health Complications

Diabetes comes with a series of health complications. For instance, it impacts various organs potentially leading to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart disease. There’s a high probability of diabetic nephropathy that causes chronic kidney disease leading to kidney failure. There’s pain loss of feeling, tingling, and others affecting the extremities called neuropathy. Retinopathy is another potential impact of diabetes which causes vision loss or blindness.

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Economic Burden

Diabetes has been around for decades and yet, the medical expenses in dealing and treating this disease and its aftermath have increased manifold. Today, It has the potential to put excessive economic burden on any patient which includes everything from medications, insulin injections, monitoring devices, regular check-ups and blood reports, and other treatments, each with a price tag.

Diabetes can trigger reduced productivity at work absenteeism or early retirement due to disability that ultimately puts the patient in a financial crunch if there’s no backup available. The overall quality of life is reduced for the patient as well as the family and not to forget the psychological impact diabetes can have on the human body effects of which can be far-reaching.

Increased Mortality

A major public health concern, there’s a high mortality rate linked to diabetes as the complications that develop such as kidney problems, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), heart disease, and nerve damage, among others. Both low and high blood sugar in the body has severe health risks if left untreated. Thus, managing blood sugar is critical as it helps manage the risks associated with it for a quality and long life.

Wrapping Up

Diabetes has become a public health issue encompassing people across all ages, sexes, demographics and ethnic groups. The rise of Diabetes in South India has groped a huge population due to their dietary habits consisting of carbohydrates and glucose-rich items including rice which leads to serious health snarls such as stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure to name a few. It is critical to monitor, take the doctor’s advice and assume preventative measures to eliminate any signs of pre-diabetes or stabilise diabetes and its aftermath.

Also Read: The Ultimate Guide To South Indian Diabetic Diet Chart

Disclaimer: The content of this article is compiled information from generic and public sources. It is in no way a substitute, suggestion, or advice for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. BeatoApp does not claim responsibility for this information.

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Akhil Taneja

Akhil Taneja

Health & Wellness Connoisseur and Growth Marketing Expert, I am a passionate health enthusiast and an advocate for holistic health. With my expertise in tech and love for helping others achieve optimal well-being, I am delivering insightful content to help readers achieve their health and fitness goals.

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