The prevalence of diabetes is skyrocketing at an alarming pace in the state. Recent data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2022 sheds light on the severity of the issue.
The survey reveals alarming statistics on high random blood glucose (RBG) levels, surpassing the threshold of 141 mg/dl. Among women in Gujarat, the prevalence stands at a staggering 14.8 per cent, while for men, it reaches 16.1 per cent.
Comparatively, the previous NFHS-4 report released in 2015-16 reported significantly lower figures of 5.8 per cent for women and 7.6 per cent for men.
These figures paint a troubling picture, as Gujarat surpasses the national average of 12.4 per cent for women and 14.4 per cent for men in terms of high RBG levels.
Among major states with populations exceeding three crore, Gujarat ranks fourth, highlighting the pressing need for immediate intervention and widespread awareness campaigns.
The situation has taken a turn for the worse, as the state faces the consequences of its sugary indulgences. The growing prevalence of diabetes demands urgent action to curb its alarming rise.
Rucha J. Mehta, a Gujarat-based endocrinologist with over 16 years of experience told IANS: "By 2030, one in six Indians will be diabetic. One of the major reasons for diabetes is obesity and currently, 7 out of 10 adults and 4 out of 11 children are obese in India. The scenario in Gujarat is even worse. 150-170 minutes of cardio per week is a must to maintain a healthy body."
She also spoke about Gujarati diet, saying: "The Gujarati diet has maximum carbs, oil and sugar. Due to such poor lifestyle habits, Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. We have more patients now, than we ever had."
Epidemiologist Kaumudi Joshipura, who has been appointed the Dean of the newly opened Ahmedabad University’s School of Public Health, also told IANS: "In terms of lifestyle, ours is the only state where we put sugar in almost everything we cook, a lot of fried stuff, refined carbs diet. I was surprised to see that although alcohol is banned in Gujarat, a lot of people get addicted to alcohol more than in other states,"
Chairman and Chief Diabetologist Swasthya Diabetes Care & All India Institute of Diabetes & Research, Dr. Mayur Patel told IANS: "Cases of diabetes are rapidly increasing in Gujarat because of both overeating and under-eating. There is nothing like work-life balance and our food habits make the scenario worse. Weight gain is a major problem for Gujaratis."
Why do Gujaratis add sugar to every food?
The semi-arid climate of Gujarat, characterised by scorching temperatures reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius during summer, along with irregular rainfall patterns, has resulted in water scarcity. Groundwater, the primary source of drinking water, is naturally salty and contains high levels of fluoride due to its proximity to the coast. Locally referred to as "khaara pani," this salty water profoundly affects the taste of food prepared with it.
To counterbalance the excessive saltiness, Gujarat’s ancestors began adding an element of sweetness, typically jaggery, to their dishes.
Over time, this practice became ingrained in the culture, and the people of Gujarat developed a preference for sugary foods.