These days we’ve been used to China being the land of “the first,” “the largest” and “the highest.” However, not all of these superlatives are worthy of praise. China now has the largest diabetic population in the world (114 million), according to a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Even more shocking is that China’s diabetes prevalence has increased from 1 percent in 1980 to 11.6 percent in 2010, which is even higher than the United States (11.3 percent). And the worst is yet to come. Indeed, 493 million people, or one in two adults, in China are thought to have prediabetes, or abnormally high blood sugar levels that presage the disease. According to Dr. Ji Linong, a leading Chinese expert on diabetics, each year, six to seven percent of those with prediabetes—amounting to approximately 30 million—will be added to the diabetes population estimate. If this true, China’s diabetes population already exceeds 130 million. (A 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine forecasted China would reach this benchmark by 2030.)