India leads the world in the looming epidemic of diabetes, the 20th annual World Diabetes Congress of the International Diabetic Federation (IDF) was told here on Monday.

In its annual report, the IDF said India currently has the highest number of 50.8 million people suffering from diabetes, followed by China with 43.2 million and the US with 26.8 million. The report projected 58.7 million diabetes cases in India by 2010 - almost 7 percent of its adult population.

By 2030, over 8.4 percent of the Indian adult population will suffer from diabetes, thanks to the increasing life expectancy and urbanization, the report said.

Warning Indian policy makers, the report said, “Evidence suggests that in more affluent parts of the country, the rural prevalence is higher than in less affluent rural areas, indicating that increasing economic growth will raise diabetes prevalence in India even more than these possibly conservative estimates have indicated.”

The rampaging diabetes will impose a huge economic burden on India and other countries, it added. Apart from losing billions in lost productivity, the report said, India will also be spending $2.8 billion annually on diabetes control measures by 2010.

There are estimated to be 285 million diabetes cases worldwide, accounting for seven per cent of the world’s population.

Diabetes, along with cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, accounts for 60 percent ff all deaths worldwide.

“Diabetes imposes a large economic burden on the individual, national healthcare system and economy. Healthcare expenditures on diabetes are expected to account for 11.6 percent of the total healthcare expenditure in the world in 2010,” the report said.

“Estimated global healthcare expenditures to treat and prevent diabetes and its complications are expected to total at least $376 billion in 2010.”

Addressing the congress, Martin Silink, outgoing president of the International Diabetic Federation, said the epidemic of diabetes will increase from 7 million new cases a year in 2007 to 10 million new cases this year.

The epidemic is getting out of control, said incoming IDF president Jean-Claude Mbanya. He said if the trend continues unchecked, there will be 435 million people with diabetes worldwide by 2030.

More than 12,000 delegates and 400 speakers from around the world are attending the congress.

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