Obesity Crisis: Nearly 30 pc of Indians affected, Lancet survey reveals

State-specific health policies urgently needed as diabetes rates soar in India


Over 11 percent of Indians are diabetic, while 36 percent suffer from hypertension, according to a survey published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal. The study, conducted by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), estimates that in 2021, there were 101 million people with diabetes in India, 136 million with prediabetes, and 315 million with high blood pressure.

The survey, which is the largest epidemiological study on diabetes and non-communicable diseases (NCD) in India, also found that the prevalence of generalised obesity and abdominal obesity stood at 28.6 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively. In 2021, it is estimated that 254 million people had generalised obesity, and 351 million had abdominal obesity.

Comparing the results to a previous study in 2017, the prevalence of diabetes in India has increased by over 50 percent. Among the states, Goa had the highest prevalence of diabetes at 26.4 percent, while Uttar Pradesh had the lowest at 4.8 percent. The burden of prediabetes was highest in Sikkim at 31.3 percent and lowest in Mizoram at 6.8 percent. Punjab had the highest prevalence of hypertension at 51.8 percent, while Meghalaya had the highest burden.

Dr. R. M. Anjana, President of MDRF, highlighted the lifestyle choices of people such as diet, physical activity, and stress levels as the main contributors to the steep increase in non-communicable diseases. However, Dr. Anjana also expressed optimism that interventions can be employed to address the trend.

The survey, conducted between 2008 and 2020, involved over 113,000 individuals from 31 states and Union Territories in India. It revealed that 81.2 percent of participants had dyslipidemia, an imbalance of lipids such as cholesterol, LDL-C, triglycerides, and HDL.

The study emphasized that all metabolic NCDs, except prediabetes, were more prevalent in urban areas than in rural areas. In states with a lower human development index, the ratio of diabetes to prediabetes was less than 1.

V. Mohan, Chairman of Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre and MDRF, stressed the importance of state governments using the detailed state-level data from the survey to develop evidence-based interventions for the prevention and management of NCDs and their complications.

The authors of the study noted that the prevalence of diabetes and other metabolic NCDs in India is considerably higher than previously estimated. While the diabetes epidemic is stabilizing in more developed states, it continues to rise in most other states. Urgent state-specific policies and interventions are needed to address the rapidly increasing epidemic of metabolic NCDs in India.

The findings of this survey underscore the urgent need for India to prioritize public health initiatives focused on preventing and managing diabetes, hypertension, and other non-communicable diseases.