Festival cheer rings diabetes alarm for Indians

Wed Oct 12, 2011 1:58am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By David Lalmalsawma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - It's festival season in India, with the celebrations providing a perfect opportunity for family outings, late-night parties and customary feasting on sweets.

But health experts warn that the festivities, coupled with genetic predisposition and lifestyle changes brought about by the increasing prosperity of the middle class, is contributing to the country being called the world's "diabetes capital," with the highest number of diabetics in any nation.

The string of festivals, starting with Durga Puja and Dussehra and ending with Diwali, take place in accordance with the Hindu calendar and the dates change every year. The first two were on Oct 6 and Diwali falls on Oct 26 this year.

"For the next one month or so, it is all either festivals or outings," says Anoop Misra, chairman at New Delhi's Fortis-C-DOC, Center of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.

"During this time, the rate of obesity goes up, sugar control of established diabetics goes down and those who are predisposed to develop diabetes also show diabetes."

Festivals in India are synonymous with eating and gifting sweets, and most food and confectionery shops are decked with an assortment of goodies in colorful wrappings meant for traditional presents.

Two all-time favorites are rasgullas, a soft, spongy ball made from cottage cheese, and the conch-shaped samdesh, made from jaggery. A popular holiday treat is milk-based kaju barfi.

But experts warn the festival fun -- and, not least, the culture of sweet-eating that peaks then -- can help trigger long-term health problems, with diabetes only the start.   Continued...

<p>Kashmiri people buy pastries and spices ahead of Eid al-Fitr festival in Srinagar September 20, 2009. REUTERS/Danish Ismail</p>