The prevalence of diabetes and other metabolic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India is considerably higher than previously estimated, a new study has found.
The eye-opening study on deteriorating health markers of Indians has shown the prevalence of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, central obesity or abdominal fat, and high cholesterol.
The study, claimed to be the “first comprehensive study, covering all states of India” to assess the NCD burden in the country, has been conducted by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Union Health Ministry.
Published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, it found that “while the diabetes epidemic is stabilizing in the more developed states of the country, it is still increasing in most other states”.
The study, titled “Metabolic non-communicable health report of India-the ICMR-INDIAB National Cross-sectional Study”, has found that the national prevalence of diabetes is 11.4% whereas 35.5% Indians suffer from hypertension.
“Thus, there are serious implications for the nation, warranting urgent state-specific policies and interventions to arrest the rapidly rising epidemic of metabolic NCDs in India,” it said.
Another worrying trend is higher number of people — around 15.3% — suffer from prediabetes, a condition just before entering the stage of diabetes where blood sugar is high but not high enough to be Type 2 diabetes. It shows that pre-diabetics outnumber diabetics in India.
The study showed that more than 28% have generalised obesity, around 40% have abdominal obesity and 81.2% have dyslipidaemia, abnormally elevated cholesterol or lipids in the blood — all markers show the prevalence of cardio-metabolic risk factors.
“While the diabetes epidemic is stabilising in the more developed states of the country, it is still increasing in most other states. Thus, there are serious implications for the nation, warranting urgent state-specific policies and interventions to arrest the rapidly rising epidemic of metabolic NCDs in India,” researchers said in the study.
How the Study Was Conducted
The results of the study are based on surveying 1,13,043 people — 33,537 urban and 79,506 rural residents — in 31 states and Union Territories in the country between 2008 and 2020.
The latest National Family Health Survey-5 for the 2019-2021 period showed 21% women and 24% men aged over 15 years had hypertension. It also showed that 6.4% women and 4% men aged 15-49 years were obese.
In absolute terms, the study found that 136 million in the country are pre-diabetic whereas 101 million are diabetic. So far, India estimated that it had around 7.7 crore people with diabetes as per the estimates of the World Health Organisation.
The study found that Puducherry has the highest prevalence of obesity whereas Sikkim and Goa have the highest prevalence of prediabetes and diabetes, respectively.
The prevalence of hypertriglyceridemia and low HDL cholesterol was high in all the regions of India, with very little urban-rural difference.
On the contrary, hyper-cholesterolaemia and high LDL cholesterol showed comprehensive interstate and inter-regional variability, with the highest prevalence in the northern region, Kerala, and Goa. It showed that Kerala has the highest number of people with high cholesterol — more than 50% prevalence.
Abdominal obesity was high in all the regions of India and generalized obesity was more prevalent in the south, followed by the northern and eastern areas. The central and northeastern regions have lower prevalence of diabetes, the study showed.