Date
23 July 2017
More than 40 million people died during the Great Chinese Famine of the late 1950s and early '60s. Many of the children who survived developed diabetes in late adulthood. Photo: internet
More than 40 million people died during the Great Chinese Famine of the late 1950s and early '60s. Many of the children who survived developed diabetes in late adulthood. Photo: internet

Feast after famine blamed for rise of diabetes in China

Rising diabetes rates among middle-aged and elderly people in China may be linked to their exposure to famine early in life followed by a rapid surge in economic development, Reuters reported, citing a recent study.

China experienced a famine between 1959 and 1962.

Then the country rebounded. Its gross domestic product — a widely accepted measure of economic health — surged from US$28 per capita in 1978 to US$6,803 in 2013.

Researchers analyzed data on about 6,900 adults, including roughly 3,800 who experienced famine followed by a different economic status in adulthood.

Compared those who didn’t live through the famine, those exposed to famine in their mother’s womb were 53 percent more likely to have diabetes as adults, the study found.

Exposure to famine during childhood was linked to an 82 percent increased risk for diabetes later in life.

In addition, Chinese adults living in more affluent areas had a 46 percent greater risk of diabetes than people living in poorer communities, said Yingli Lu of Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital and Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, the senior author of the study.

It’s possible the link exists because people who are malnourished in the womb or during childhood may have a reduced ability to convert sugars into energy later in life when they get the chance to eat much more food, Lu said.

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