Explained: Why Indian kids show diabetes signals early

What is the news?

The study was conducted in Pune to understand why diabetes is so common in Indians. They have tracked women from before they became pregnant and during their pregnancy, and their children through childhood, puberty and now as adults.

What are the findings of the study?

High glucose and insulin concentration in early childhood: It was found that at 18 years, 37% of men and 18% of women had elevated glucose levels (prediabetes). This was despite half of them being underweight.

Risk Factors: Children with sub-optimal growth in the womb carry high levels of risk factors for diabetes from early childhood.

It was found that poor functioning of the pancreas with increasing age is linked to high glucose levels. This is also linked to poor growth of the pancreas during fetal life.

What is the status of diabetes in India?

World Health Organization (WHO): India has an estimated 8.7% diabetic population in the age group 20-70, with around 77 million people with diabetes.

First National Nutrition Survey (2016-18): Almost 1 in 10 children (ages 5-9) were pre-diabetic, and 1% were already diabetic. This survey is jointly conducted by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, UNICEF and Population Council.

What are the reasons behind the high prevalence of diabetes?

This is because of the combination of various factors like rapid urbanization, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and increasing life expectancy.

Read more: Prevalence of Diabetes in India
What are the key suggestions provided by the study to control diabetes?

According to experts, the government should adopt the following measures

Lower the screening age for diabetes from 30 to 25 years.

-Main focus should be on women and child health. Maternal nutrition during pregnancy should be focussed upon as a preventive measure.

– Need to adopt an integrated life course approach. Prevention should be started at the community level and not just in the clinic.

-India does not yet have sufficient data to translate research into policymaking. This calls for robust and comprehensive research work.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why Indian kids show diabetes signals early” published in the Indian Express on  13th November 2021.

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