Type 2 diabetes epidemic in Asia

The proportion of people with type 2 diabetes and obesity has increased throughout Asia, and the rate of increase shows no sign of slowing. Type 2 diabetes has now reached epidemic levels in Asia, according to a Review in this week's issue.

People in Asia develop diabetes at a younger age and lower weight, suffer longer with chronic diabetes complications, and die sooner than those in developed countries, state Kun Ho Yoon (Department of Internal Medicine, Kangnam St Mary's Hospital, Seoul, South Korea) and colleagues. The health consequences of this epidemic threaten to overwhelm health-care systems in the region and urgent action is needed.

The behavioural patterns of the young in Asia have changed rapidly. Unlike the gradual transition in nutrient availability that happened in the US and most European countries, this change has happened rapidly in many lower-income countries. Fast foods are readily available and lifestyles have become more sedentary due to computers, TV, academic study, poor urban planning, and cars. In China, the proportion of children aged 7 to 18 years who were obese and overweight increased 28-fold between 1985 and 2000. The onset of type 2 diabetes in younger age-groups is likely to result in major economic burdens for countries in Asia due to premature ill health and death.

India and China have the greatest numbers of people with diabetes in the world, and by 2025 they could each have 20 million affected individuals. In Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, the prevalence rates of type 2 diabetes have increased three-fold to five-fold during the past 30 years.

"Although the prevalence in Asia is currently similar to that in the US, the rate at which diabetes has increased and the likelihood that it will continue to increase at this rate, provide substantial grounds for concern," states Professor Yoon. "The cost of inaction is clear and unacceptable".

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EMBARGO: 18:30H ET Thursday November 9, 2006

Contact: Professor Kun Ho Yoon, Department of Internal Medicine, Kangnam St Mary's Hospital, 505 Banpo-Dong, Seocho-Gu, Seoul, South Korea. T) +82 2 590 2394 yoonk@catholic.ac.kr


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