Rise in onset of diabetes among young people is disturbing: Dr. Ambrish Mithal, Endocrinologist | The Financial Express

Rise in onset of diabetes among young people is disturbing: Dr. Ambrish Mithal, Endocrinologist

Studies point out that over 74.3 million Indians are living with diabetes and 67 percent of the population living with type 2 diabetes also lives with obesity.

Rise in onset of diabetes among young people is disturbing: Dr. Ambrish Mithal, Endocrinologist
Dr. Ambrish Mithal, Chairman & Head – Endocrinology & Diabetes, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket and Max Hospital, Gurgaon. (Image Credit: Twitter/@DrAmbrishMithal)

Diabetes is a rapidly growing public health challenge across the world. Amid the rising cases of non-communicable diseases, in India which is known as ‘Diabetes Capital of the World’, the impact has been manifold.

Studies point out that over 74.3 million Indians are living with diabetes and 67 percent of the population living with type 2 diabetes also lives with obesity, with a median BMI of 25.6 kg/m2 well above the average upper limit of 24.9 kg/m2.

Last week, global pharma major, Novo Nordisk, announced that it has partnered with former Indian cricket team captain Kapil Dev to launch ‘Break the Partnership’. According to the company, the campaign is aimed at educating people with diabetes, their caregivers, and doctors about the grave influence of weight in type 2 diabetes (T2D).

During the event, Financial Express.com got the opportunity to speak to Dr. Ambrish Mithal, Chairman & Head – Endocrinology & Diabetes, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket and Max Hospital, Gurgaon and he highlighted that there is a rising incidence of diabetes cases among young people in India. Excerpts:

People don’t priortise lifestyle-associated diseases like Diabetes. According to you, what are the possible reasons?

The issue is, traditionally and rightfully, human beings have treated symptoms. When you talk about diseases that have no symptoms like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol…it is a challenge to get people to worry about long-term ailments. People are looking at today’s relief…they are not looking at the long term. This is the reason why a certain level of education and awareness and understanding. The second issue is, it brings with it a sense of restriction…people start feeling that they are in a cage. This is wrong but that’s how people think. Whenever the responsibility comes on the people, they tend to deflect it. People need to understand that it’s their health and they need to take charge of it. There are two reasons why people run away from Diabetes: one is there are no symptoms and another is the feeling of restriction and responsibility.

With respect to the prevalence of Diabetes in India, we are the Capital of Diabetes in the world. What are the key problem areas that need immediate focus?

The two most important areas are definitely diet and exercise. The availability of healthy diet options is poor at the moment. There are so many food apps now and there is a tendency for people especially kids to order food late at night, office-goers order food throughout the day and even my children do the same too. The main issue is, what are the options for ordering food online? Whether it’s Indian or Western…we love to order fast food. These food options are not healthy. So, we need to promote healthy options and make unhealthy options unaffordable or more expensive. We need to promote the availability of healthy food options which we are often not doing well enough.

You must be witnessing so many diabetes cases everyday. What are the recent trends that you have observed in the patients? Do you see any change in causal patterns among these patients?

I think the biggest pattern change I see is the onset of diabetes in young people. This is very disturbing for me. Twenty years ago I wasn’t seeing 20-year-olds walking in with Type 2 Diabetes. Now, I see this every day…people in their twenties…definitely in their mid-twenties, and some even at the age of 17 or 18 coming with Type 2 diabetes and imagine they have to live with it for 50 years and look at the complication rate that can happen within this period. For me, this is very disturbing.

During the coronavirus pandemic we saw diabetes as the biggest co-morbidity and we also saw a rise in cases of complications like Mucormycosis. Other than COVID-19, could you highlight some other diseases where diabetes and obesity are co-morbidities?

Diabetes and obesity come with a whole set of partner-in-crime…they go together. So, it’s like people with hypertension have more diabetes…people with diabetes have more hypertension. People with diabetes have more heart disease…people with diabetes and blood pressure have even more heart diseases. So, all of this is linked. Diabetes is at the centre of almost every condition…not just in non-communicable diseases but also in communicable diseases like COVID-19 in which the outcomes were much worse than people without diabetes. I think it has a role in almost every disease including cancers.

Do you think Diabetes can be completely cured?

Reversal of a chronic condition is not easy but…what we call is…inducing remission and means that the disease can be completely controlled and you can be without medication. This is not uncommon, especially in young patients who have got diabetes early because of their bad lifestyle and their diabetes can go into remission…whether it’s going to stay like that, whether it’s a total remission…we don’t know. Diabetes is essentially a progressive condition and over a period of years it will probably come back…but you can delay it by 10 years or 20 years and you will save yourself from complications.

ALSO READ | Novo Nordisk India launches campaign to emphasise link between weight management and diabetes

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First published on: 05-12-2022 at 13:57 IST