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Diabetes spreading at alarming rate throughout Asia

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Type 2 diabetes is frequently seen as the result of obesity, junk food and inactivity. The spread of this chronic condition has hit the Asian continent especially hard - suggesting that poverty and instability has a hand in fostering the condition as well.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Called the "silent killer," 98 million people suffer from diabetes in China alone. In human and financial terms, the burden of diabetes is seemingly insurmountable for Asia's poor.

Scientists say this rise may actually be fueled as much by food scarcity. Changing lifestyles, rapid urbanization and cheap calories in the form of processed foods are putting more and more people at becoming diabetic.

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According to new figures from the International Diabetes Federation, there are now 382 million people worldwide living with diabetes. More than half are in Asia and the Western Pacific, where 90 to 95 percent of cases are classed as Type-2.

China leads the world in such conditions, with the disease now affecting more than 98 million people or about 10 percent of the population, a highly dramatic increase from about one percent in 1980.

There is a complex interplay between genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors, which have been compounded by China's rapid modernization, Professor Juliana Chan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong says.

"Diabetes is a disease of paradoxes," she says. "It is typically an aging disease, but the data shows that the young and middle-aged are most vulnerable. It is prevalent in obese people but emerging data suggests that for lean people with diabetes the outcome can be worse."

Does China has the capacity to deal with a health problem of such magnitude? China spent $17 billion on diabetes last year. The disease may consume more than half of China's annual health budget, if all those with the condition get routine, state-funded care, the IDF says.

"Diabetes is a silent killer in a silent population," says Prof Chan.

Tragically, Chinese men, women and children trapped by stigma, poverty and misinformation, often do not seek help for diabetes until it is in its advanced stages.

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