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Half of people in China headed for diabetes and 12 percent have the disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
China diabetes rates at epidemic proportions

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) highlights the prevalence of diabetes in China. Results show 12 percent of the population is now diabetic and 50 percent have prediabetes.

The study authors note the burden from "noncommunicable chronic diseases" that have now reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Diabetes in China was less than 1 percent in 1980, according to the study authors.

National surveys conducted in 1994 showed 2.5 percent of the population had the disease; then in 2000-2001, the incidence of diabetes was 2.5 percent and

"The most recent national survey in 2007 reported that the prevalence of diabetes was 9.7 percent, representing an estimated 92.4 million adults in China with diabetes.”

Diabetes rates in China have now reached epidemic proportions.

Yu Xu, Ph.D., of the Shanghai Jiao-Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China, and colleagues with the 2010 China Noncommunicable Disease Surveillance Group, conducted the study that included a nationally representative sample of 98,658 Chinese adults in 2010.

The researchers measured study participant's hemoglobin A1C levels and plasma glucose levels after a ten-hour fast. A 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test was included. None of the participants reported having diabetes.

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The results showed 12.1 percent of men, and 11.0 percent of Chinese women; 8.1 percent of case were newly diagnosed.

"The prevalence of diabetes was higher in urban than in rural residents in both men and women. Furthermore, diabetes prevalence increased with age in both men and women, and men younger than 50 years had a higher prevalence, whereas women older than 60 years had a higher prevalence. In addition, the prevalence of diabetes increased with economic development, as well as in overweight and obese persons, " the authors wrote.

Among diabetes cases, 30.1 percent of people were aware that they had the disease. Only 25.8 were undergoing treatment and 39.7 percent had poor blood sugar control.

The concern is that diabetes prevalence in China could lead to a "major epidemic of diabetes-related complications" that include stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.

Risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Being over age-45
  • Family history of the disease
  • Higher than normal blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure (greater than 140/90
  • 'Good' HDL cholesterol under 35
  • Triglyceride levels above 250
  • Ethnicity - African-American, Asian, American-Indian, HIspanic
  • Physical inactivity

Diabetes, type 2 is largely preventable with diet and lifestyle interventions. Though there may be genetic predisposition to the disease, according to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), diabetes can be prevented with 30- minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5-days a week and by eating a low-fat diet that consists of a variety of healthy foods.

The new finding highlights future health risks of people in China - 12 percent of whom have diabetes and 50 percent found to have prediabetes.

Source: JAMA (doi:10.l001/jama.2013.168118