Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. It is characterized by problems with insulin regulation, and often affects the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can also lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, poor blood circulation in the legs and feet that may cause ulcers or sores which do not heal easily.
Diabetes Fact in South East Asia
The prevalence of diabetes is high in South East Asia, especially in Malaysia where the rate of diabetes is one of the highest in the world. According to data from The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) South East Asia countries have higher prevalence rates compared to other parts of the world.
90 million adults (20-79) are living with diabetes in the IDF South-East Asia (SEA) Region in 2021. This figure is estimated to increase to 113 million by 2030 and 152 million by 2045.
This article will explore what we know about diabetes in SE Asia and aims to give some insight into why this may be happening.
Key global findings 2021 for Diabetes in South East Asia
1 in 11 adults (90 million) are living with diabetes.
The number of adults with diabetes is expected to reach 113 million by 2030 and 151 million by 2045
Over 1 in 2 adults living with diabetes are undiagnosed.
747,000 deaths were caused by diabetes in 2021.
USD 10 billion spent on diabetes in 2021.
The diabetes prevalence rate in South East Asian Countries
Malaysia :18.3% in 2019
Singapore: 13.7 % in 2019
Brunei: 13.3 % in 2019
Thailand: 9.6 % in 2019
Indonesia: 6.2% in 2019
Myanmar: 19.7 % in 2019
Cambodia: 6.4% in 2019
Timor-Leste: 6.7 % in 2019
Laos: 3.6 % in 2019
the Philippines:7.1 % in 2019
Vietnam: 6% in 2017
Causes of Diabetes in South East Asia
Diabetes is a critical public health problem in South-East Asia (SEA). This situation will worsen because of the ageing populations, urbanization and economic development resulting in changes in lifestyle.
Type 2 Diabetes is one of the most common and serious threats to public health in Asia. This condition affects over 200 million people across the region, with a rapidly growing population and rising rate of urbanization, this number is expected to rise further in future. As well as affecting large numbers of people each year, diabetes also places great strain on healthcare systems.
The usual ethnic background of the Asian population includes a lower BMI with greater visceral fat, an early age of diabetes start, and major historical changes over the last decades; all of these characteristics may contribute to a high diabetes prevalence.
Obesity, on the other hand, produces an increase in fatty acids and inflammation, which leads to insulin resistance, which can develop into type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for over 90% of cases.
Rough calculation of the prevalence of obesity in adults aged 18 years and over in ASEAN countries shows the following levels:
Brunei Darussalam 29.5%
With the rising of the fast-food chains in the Southeast Asia region, the BMI rate had give a big impact on the population.
Furthermore, with the advancement of technology, such as door-to-door meal delivery, individuals have become too lethargic to walk out or move to fetch their food.
Economic and Government Policy
It's strange that when we're looking for nutritious meals, organic and healthful foods are always the most expensive.
For example, at high-end hypermarkets, the majority of organic food is imported from outside, which could explain the significant increase in food prices.
As a result, it may be time for our government to launch a program encouraging local producers to develop more healthy options and create more demand, ensuring that prices remain stable and reasonable for low-income families.
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Latt TS, Zaw KK, Ko K, et al. Measurement of diabetes, prediabetes and their associated risk factors in Myanmar 2014. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019;12:291-298. Published 2019 Mar 4. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S156270
Ngoc NB, Lin ZL, Ahmed W. Diabetes: What Challenges Lie Ahead for Vietnam?. Ann Glob Health. 2020;86(1):1. Published 2020 Jan 2. doi:10.5334/aogh.2526