Page last updated at 03:45 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 04:45 UK

Asia facing 'diabetes explosion'

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New research suggests diabetes is becoming a global problem, with more than 60% of all cases likely to occur in Asia.

A study in the Journal of the American Medicine Association shows those hit in Asia are younger and less likely to be overweight than those in the West.

The study says numbers worldwide could grow by a third by 2025, with low and middle income countries worst hit.

The disease is expensive to treat and could hit Asian economies hard.

The study said trends of diabetes in Asia are influenced by everything from genetic and cultural differences, to smoking and rates of urbanisation.

Weighty surprise

While in the West, type-2 diabetes is often seen as a consequence of diet, age and obesity, researchers say those affected in Asia are relatively young and less likely to be struggling with weight gain.

Citing figures from the International Diabetes Federation, researchers say while people from Japan to Pakistan generally have lower rates of fat, they can have a similar or even higher prevalence of diabetes than in the West.

The problem is that although Asian obesity rates are low, changing diets and sedentary lifestyles, associated with rapid economic development, are taking their toll.

That transition, which took about 200 years in Europe, has taken just half a century in Asia, experts noted.

The age differential was also stark. Diabetes most often affects people in the West at the age of 60 to 79 years, compared to the age range of 20 to 59 years in Asia.

The study suggested that this appears to be the result of both low birth weights and over-nutrition in later life, partly because Asian women are two- to three-times as likely to have gestational diabetes as their white counterparts.

India will see its numbers grow from 40 million to nearly 70 million; China 39 million to 59 million; and Bangladesh 3.8 million to 7.4 million; the numbers for Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and others will also rise dramatically.

The findings were based on analysis of hundreds of articles, data and studies published between January 1980 and March 2009.

262008 may 09GMT

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