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Diabetes rate in China is double previous estimates

Bloomberg News / March 26, 2010

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SINGAPORE — China has overtaken India as the global epicenter of the diabetes epidemic after a study showed twice as many Chinese are afflicted with the disease as previously estimated.

Type 2 diabetes, mostly caused by a high-calorie diet and sedentary lifestyle, afflicts 92.4 million adults in China, a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found. Earlier surveys calculated 43.2 million diabetics in the country, fewer than the 50.8 million that the Brussels-based International Diabetes Federation estimates are in India.

“This shows that the global burden of diabetes is far larger than previously estimated,’’ David Whiting, a disease tracker with the federation, said in a statement. “It is a wake-up call for governments and policy makers to take action on diabetes.’’

More than half of China’s diabetics haven’t been diagnosed, the study’s authors said. That stands in the way of treatment for a disease that increases the risk of dying from stroke and heart attack, and reflects an unwanted consequence of the country’s rapid urbanization.