Dr Alan Barclay
Diabetes and pre-diabetes epidemic in China.
China is now the global epicentre of diabetes and pre-diabetes according to new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nearly two out of three Chinese adults has diabetes or prediabetes. In 2010, a survey of Chinese adults found that 11.6%, equivalent to a staggering 113.9 million people, had diabetes, and unfortunately only one in three were aware that they had the condition. In addition, just over half (50.1%) of all Chinese adults had prediabetes, equivalent to an even more staggering 493.4 million people.
Perhaps surprisingly, unlike other countries with similarly high diabetes prevalence rates, the average adult in China is not nearly as overweight as their Western counterparts.
It’s thought that poor nutrition during pregnancy and the early life of the child, combined with over-nutrition in later life, may be contributing to the accelerated epidemic of diabetes in China. In addition, rapid economic growth and associated industrialization, urbanization, and lifestyle changes (increased high-calorie diets high in refined carbohydrates and fats and decreased physical activity) are taking their toll.
Traditionally, Chinese people consume a high carbohydrate diet, with a very high proportion of their calories coming from white rice. While they were physically active and relatively lean, this was not a major health issue, but as they have become more sedentary, and adopted more Western foods into their diets, the high glycemic load may be contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that there is strong evidence that at least 50% of people with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay its progression to type 2 diabetes through regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day), modest weight reduction (5-10% of initial body weight) moderate calorie restriction (eating 500 less calories a day), and eating a diet low in saturated fat (less than 10% of calories) and high in fibre (25-30 g a day).
As regular readers know, there is also very good evidence that lowering the glycemic load of the diet will also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In China, there are a number of staple foods with a high glycemic load such as rice, noodles, bread, and potatoes. There are low GI versions of these foods so swapping high for healthy low GI varieties is one strategy to help reduce body weight and the associated diabetes risk. Healthy swaps include:
While these varieties and brands of staples are not available yet in China, we know that work is well underway to make them more widely available. Stay tuned.
- Rice: SunRice Low GI White Rice and Low GI Brown Rice; Moolgiri
- Noodles: Rice, udon and mung bean
- Bread: Dense wholegrain (e.g., Burgen varieties) and authentic sourdough
- Potatoes: Carisma
The GI Symbol, making healthy low GI choices easy choices
For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037