Diabetes in India

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October 07, 2023

Why in news?

Scientific evidence shows that diets heavy with ultra-processed food and beverages or high in sugar, fat, and salt are risky and can lead to diabetes.

Status of diabetes in India

According to the study conducted by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Union Health Ministry,

  • India is the infamous diabetes capital of the world accounting for one sixth of the world’s population with considerable occurrence at younger age (45-64 years).
  • It revealed that 11.4% of India’s population or 10.13 crore people are living with diabetes.
  • The study showed that 5.3% of the population or an additional 13.6 crore people are pre-diabetic.
  • It also found that 28.6% of the population would be considered to be obese as per the BMI measure.


What is diabetes?

  • Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder which is the most common pancreatic endocrine disorder (Non-Communicable Disease).
  • Characteristics- It is caused due to insufficient, deficient or failure of insulin secretion.
    • Hyperglycaemia- Increase in blood sugar level
    • Glycosuria- Excretion of excess glucose in the urine
    • Polyuria- Frequent urination
    • Polydipsia- Increased thirst
    • Polyphagia- Increase in appetite
  • Types of Diabetes - There are 3 main types of diabetes.
    • Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin.
    • Type 2 diabetes is caused when your body does not use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels.
    • Gestational diabetes is caused by the insulin-blocking hormones that are produced during pregnancy.


Type-1 (Insulin dependent diabetes)

Type-2 (Non-insulin dependent diabetes)




Age of onset

Juvenile onset (Less than 20 years)

Maturity onset (Greater than 30 years)

Body weight

Normal or underweight



Insulin deficiency due to destruction of β-cells

Target cells do respond to insulin


Insulin administration is necessary

Can be controlled by diet, exercise and medicine.

What is the relation between processed foods and diabetes?

  • Ultra processed foods- According to the World Health Organization, consumption of unhealthy ultra-processed foods and beverages such as carbonated drinks, instant foods, Sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meat products, etc. cause diabetes.
    • A 10% increase in the consumption of ultra-processed food a day is associated with a 15% higher risk of type-2 diabetes among adults.
  • Obesity- When food is ultra-processed, its structure is destroyed and cosmetic additives, colours, and flavours are added.
  • This makes people eat more, gain weight, and heightens the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
  • Complications-Obesity and diabetes are key risk factors for heart disease and deaths.

How India become a playground for the food industry?

  • Fall in sale in other countries- It is reported that the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages has fallen in the last 20 years in many high-income countries.
  • To compensate for the loss of sales, companies are now focusing on low- and middle-income countries such as India.
  • Marketing- Billions of rupees are spent on marketing and advertising ultra-processed food and beverages, which leads to increased consumption by vulnerable populations.
  • Celebrity endorsements also determine their consumption decisions.
  • It targets younger generations and the growing middle class, making it hard for an individual to choose healthy food options.
  • Environment- While the food industry blames people for bad choices, it is not the people but the environment around them that is to blame.
  • Women- Women bear the silent burden of this illness as gestational diabetes is common among pregnant women where hormonal changes make the blood sugar levels oscillate.
  • Issues with the food industry- They do not want any restrictions on marketing and they offer partnerships as well as arguments of economic development as ‘stakeholders’.
  • The food industry also participates in programmes such as ‘Eat Right’, making false promises.
  • Lack of regulation- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has allowed a dominating role to the food industry where front-of-package labelling is still not in place.

What lies ahead?

  • Institutionalisation- States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have tasked Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Anganwadi workers with door-to-door screening, doing glucometer checks, and counselling people.
  • Legal framework- Regulatory policy on restricting the marketing of ultra-processed foods and providing warning labels on junk food and beverages is the need of the hour.
  • Awareness- The people must be informed of the risk of consuming such food.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  • Establishment - It is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
  • Ministry - Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • Headquarters - Delhi
  • Function - To regulate and monitor, manufacture, processing, distribution, sale and import of food while ensuring safe and wholesome food to the consumers.
  • To protect and promote public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.



  1. The Hindu- Defusing the ticking bomb called diabetes
  2. The Hindu- Silent burden for women
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