Last week, a sweet, and a sour piece of information appeared side-by-side in newspapers. The sweet: India’s chocolate consumption trebles since 2005; the sour: India is home to over 61 million diabetics.
Ironic but true. As Cadbury India is about to roll out Toblerone from parent Kraft Food’s Stable, Dr Suman Kapur, professor of biological sciences at BITS-Pilani has developed a sugar test that would cost just Rs2, take about 10 seconds and draw far less blood than the regular glucose meter. On the same sweet tooth, the iconic triangular chocolate will now be imported by Cadbury India to compete with the likes of Ferrero Rocher, Hershey’s and Lindt.
By 2030, India’s diabetes count is expected to cross the 100 million mark. The International Diabetes Federation says the country is the largest contributor to regional mortality with 9, 83, 000 deaths attributable to the disease as of last year.
Media reports point out the fast food culture, stressed lifestyles, faulty diets, lack of exercise, higher disposable incomes and indiscriminate aping of Western patterns in daily living as main causes for diabetes becoming an epidemic in India. For aspiring doctors, the two most lucrative specialisations in the field of medicine today are diabetes and cardiology, with a growing number of youngsters falling prey to these lifestyle illnesses.
Interestingly, a small number of diabetics in the world are found in Africa with Rwanda and Burundi, the two economically weak countries recording the lowest diabetes count. IT city Bangalore is the Diabetes Capital of India. Not to be left behind, its IT competitor Hyderabad, has more cases of diabetes recorded than Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi.
Surprisingly, rural areas in India with rising number of city migrants and new inroads made by mobile phone and instant food companies are also recording new cases of diabetes. Even some tribes with no genetic disposition are getting used to Type 2 diabetes, which is stress-based. Lack of adequate diabetes registries in many states, leaves many cases of diabetes (like in cases of cancer and AIDS) unreported in certain parts of India. The chain reaction and fallout symptoms of unreported diabetes instances mark higher number of deaths and unknown vicious diseases.
Meanwhile, the per-capita consumption of chocolates in India has increased from 40gm per person per year to 110–120gm. While the chocolate market has trebled in the past six years, the jump in consumption is still considered nascent. Analysis by the Boston Consulting Group on what a billion-plus people consume, suggests that food is the largest consumption category in India, in which a trading-up tendency increases with the rising income levels. On the contrary, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has himself admitted that more than four out of ten children under five years in our growing economic powerhouse are malnourished. Diabetes, thus, is the linking line in a country where excesses and malnutrition exist together.
According to the World Health Statistics 2012 Report released in Geneva on May 16, in Geneva, “One in 10 adults in the world has diabetes.” For the first time the World Health Organisation’s annual statistics report includes information from 194 countries on percentage of men and women with raised blood glucose levels. Indian women have higher rates of gestation diabetes than the national average. Worse, according to a study on youth with diabetes by Diabetes, Attitudes, Wishes and Needs, a global initiative, “more number of women, are discriminated against in the treatment of diabetes, like insulin is denied to unmarried girls in the fear of not getting good alliances!”
No systematic survey has been conducted to find out why more number of children suffer, from type I diabetes in rural than in urban India.
The International Diabetes Federation reports China has overtaken India as the “Diabetes Capital of the World,” while the US is third on the list. However, India is projected overtake China by 2025.