In 30 years, Chennai shows tenfold rise in diabetes

CHENNAI: Diabetes is spreading fast across the country and Chennai reflects this alarming trend, with the incidence shooting up tenfold in the past 30 years. The Chennai Urban Rural Epidemiology Study (CURES), which covered 26,001 individuals above the age of 20, shows that 20% of the subjects were diabetic. The incidence of diabetes in the city was 2% in 1970.

Dubbed the biggest epidemiological study in the country, it confirmed the fear that the disorder has been affecting the young and the old, the rural and the urban. It found that 58% of the population above 55 years had diabetes .

CURES was launched by Chennai-based Madras Diabetic Research Foundation (MDRF) in 2001 and the research is on-going.

“Every tenth subject recruited in Phase 1 of CURES was requested to participate in Phase 3 of CURES and on conducting detailed tests on them we found that there has been a rapid increase in the incidence of diabetes in the city ,” said MDRF head Dr V Mohan.

Dubbed the biggest epidemiologicalstudy in thecountry , it has confirmed the fear that the disorder has been affecting the young and the old, the rural andtheurban.Thestudy found that 58 % of the adult population above 55 yearshaddiabetes and another 25% fell into the pre-diabetes stage. About onethird of pre-diabetics have the chance of becoming diabetics , but it could be prevented with lifestylechangesin many cases.

The city specific study showed that 20% of people between 20 to 55 years have diabetes. In rural areas , the incidence of diabetes had gone up from 1% 40 years ago to 8% at present. “Considering that a large part of the population lives in the rural areas, even a small jump in numbers could mean a lot,” said Dr Mohan.

The first phase of another study, INDIAB, sponsored by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), had found 62 million people across the country were diabetic, and 77 million were pre-diabetic. “This clearly shows that as much as we are trying to control the disease, a huge chunk of the adult population is at the risk of getting diabetes anytime. We are slowly becoming an obesogenic society which uses elevators, escalators, cars and remote controls which ensures that there is very little physical activity. This has to change,” warned Dr Mohan.

But the doctor also assured that there are possibilities of the increasing trend stabilizing as Western studies indicate that the gene pool that is prone to diabetes would get exhausted soon and more awareness about the disease would prompt people to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Experts say that while the affluent have become aware of the disease burden and started working outtokeep fit,the middleclass are being largely affected. Lifestyle modifications, consumption of junk food and processed food and immense stress levels contribute to diabetes. “If people incorporate physical activity in their daily regime, switch to traditional and naturalfood anddo yogaor meditation everyday, diabetes can be kept at bay,” he said.