Junk food and sedentary lifestyles, cited as the causes of type II diabetes, have long been associated with the West. In fact, one in three diabetics live in China and India as developing countries increasingly adopt junk food culture.
With almost five million deaths per year caused by the disease, doctors hope to raise awareness of the causes on World Diabetes Day.
“Type 2 diabetes is a nick name for lifestyle disease,” explained Dr Shashank Joshi, endocrinologist, Association of Physicians in India (API).
“Type 2 diabetes is only because of improper lifestyle OK, on bad genes, because we developed fuel storage genes, and we have just made it sedentary, and we are not eating the right food, so we are loading our pancreas and our liver to make too much of glucose, and the glucose is not getting metabolised to the energy source.”
Known as the sweet poison, diabetes is a lifelong condition which affects the body’s ability to control blood sugar and can lead to strokes, blindness, amputations and kidney failure.
A global trend towards city living could be to blame for the rise in type II diabetes. Long commutes, stressful lives and little possibility for exercise increase the risk of contracting the disease. It is a trend which is set to increase in developing countries, putting a strain on health services.
The cost of treating England’s three million diabetics comes in at around 10 billion pounds, around 10 percent of the NHS budget.
In Kenya, where medical services are not free, the financial burden can become an obstacle to treatment.
“In lower-income communities, we find that life is hard. People do not have money to buy drugs, to see the doctor, to get their tests done,” explained Dr Nancy Ngugi, Head of the Diabetes Clinic at Kenyatta National Hospital.
Though pharmaceutical companies are working on treatments, health officials say the focus must remain on prevention. Doctors say that having a more active lifestyle can reduce the risk of contracting type II diabetes by 30-40 percent.
World Diabetes Day was first introduced in 1991 to raise awareness of the disease. In 2014, 387 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes.
The World Health Organisation, says: “World Diabetes Day, observed annually on 14 November, serves to remind governments of their commitment to develop national policies for diabetes prevention, treatment and care – a pledge they made during the 2011 UN High Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs).”