Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 3rd 2017 Contents A20 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Saturday, June 3, 2017
Rohin Sarin is midway through his ninth
grade geography class when he starts feeling
light-headed and dizzy, a sign that his blood
sugar levels are dipping. He quietly removes his
insulin pen from his school bag, gives himself
one of four daily jabs and takes a bite of an en-
The 15-year-old's classmates in New Delhi have
seen the ritual so often they are no longer curious.
Rohin is one of a growing number of Indians with dia-
betes, the disease increasingly afflicting children and
adolescents in the fast-growing South Asian country.
More than two decades of rapid economic growth
has changed Indians' lifestyles. People eat out more
often, and prefer Western-style junk food such as
burgers and pizza over traditional lentil and vegetable
meals. They are also more sedentary, using cars and
public transportation instead of walking or riding
bicycles, and entertaining themselves with television.
The changes have brought a sharp rise in obesity,
along with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, even
as India still has some of the world's worst levels of
malnourishment and stunted childhood growth due
to a paucity of food.
"Over the last 20 years, we are seeing a huge ex-
plosion ... mainly because of increasing childhood
obesity," said Dr Monica Arora, a specialist with the
Public Health Foundation of India.
Nearly 30 per cent of India's teenagers are obese,
nearly twice the number in 2010, according to health
India has 70 million diabetics, though it has no
data on how many are children and likely has mil-
lions more cases that haven't been diagnosed due to
spotty public health facilities and a lack of awareness
outside big cities.
Health experts warn that India is on track to reach
120 million cases, or nearly 10 per cent of the popu-
lation, in the next eight years. That would put it on
par with the United States, which counts 9.3 per cent
of the population as diabetic, or China, where 11 per
cent of the population---or 109 million---have been
diagnosed, according to the International Diabetes
Alarmed by the trend, the government is working
to screen 500 million people aged 30 and older for
diabetes and other non-communicable diseases by
2019, and eventually hopes to roll out the screen-
ing programme to the entire 1.3 billion population.
Authorities are also working with schools to "catch
children in the pre-diabetic stage," Health Minister
Jagat Prakash Nadda said recently.
Medical research suggests Indians are genetically
more susceptible to developing diabetes, thanks to a
tendency to put on weight around the belly, Arora said.
Most patients come from wealthier families and live
in urban areas. India's countryside villages, mean-
while, are home to one of every five malnourished
children in the world.
"When you consider the long-term costs of the
disease, it is an extremely worrisome prospect," Arora
Most of India's diabetes cases are Type 2, often
occurring when extra weight limits the body's ability
to produce or use insulin to turn food into energy. By
comparison, Type 1 diabetes is a natural inability to
Health experts are most worried about young
people developing Type 2, which is also known as
adult-onset diabetes. The disease requires a lifetime
of attention to diet and exercise and access to proper
medical treatment, without which diabetics are at
risk of blindness, limb amputations, heart or kidney
failure and stroke.
They have advised healthier diets, even for Indi-
ans sticking with traditional cuisine. That may mean
less of the starchy rice and flatbread now dominating
Indians' dinner plates. And no more adding oil and
butter to richen long-favoured curried vegetables.
And finding substitutes for the syrupy, fried sweets
popular on special occasions from official holidays
to the birth of a child or a new car purchase.
Today's residents in the capital of New Delhi are
eating about 20 per cent more fat and 40 per cent
more sugar than they did six decades ago, according
to the Indian Medical Association. And they're doing
so while burning fewer calories, taking public trans-
portation or driving private cars instead of walking
or bicycling. (AP)
Lifestyle changes in India have brought a sharp rise in obesity, along with
diseases such as diabetes, even as India still has some of the world's worst levels
of malnourishment and stunted childhood growth due to a paucity of food.
A wealthier India sees alarming
rise in adolescent diabetes
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