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Diabetes a global problem as Asian cases spiral

DIABETES is spiraling in Asia but, unlike the West, those affected are relatively young and less likely to be struggling with obesity, according to a new study.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday says the disease has turned into a global problem, with the number of victims expected to grow from 240 million in 2007 to 380 million in 2025.

More than 60 percent of those will be in Asia, the world's fastest growing region, with low and middle-income countries hardest hit.

India will see its numbers grow from 40 million to nearly 70 million; China 39 million to 59 million; and Bangladesh 3.8 million to 7.4 million, the authors wrote, citing figures from the International Diabetes Federation. Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and others will also see their figures skyrocket.

Frank Hu, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the authors, noted the disease was associated with heart disease, strokes and renal failure - all of which are expensive to treat.

Obesity has long been seen as a major factor leading to type 2 diabetes. While Asians still weigh less than their Western counterparts, they've got fatter around the waist. It is there that fat stores excess energy and releases chemicals that control metabolism and the use of insulin.

So while Asians have lower body mass indexes, "they can have a similar or even higher prevalence of diabetes than Western countries," the study showed. The study also noted the disease most often affects people between 60 and 79 in North America and Europe, but between 20 and 59 in Asia.


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