Diabetes is fast becoming a major health problem in the country with close to 40 million currently suffering from the disease, a health expert has said.
And the figure continues to rise, with about 1.2 million new cases each year, Professor Yang Wenying, chairwoman of the diabetes branch of the Chinese Medical Association, told China Daily at the 7th Novo Nordisk Diabetes Update seminar held over the weekend.
The number of diabetes patients in China is second only to that of India, which has 40.9 million.
Diabetes is characterized by the body's inadequate production or use of insulin and results in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood and urine. It can lead to complications such as infections and gangrene of the limbs or blindness.
The disease in China might still be underreported as many cases are thought to be undiagnosed, Yang said.
Most cases are found in urban areas, Yang said, citing medical studies on diabetes prevalence in Beijing and Shanghai.
About 10 percent of residents in the two cities were found to have acquired type 2 diabetes, whereas the figure is about 4 percent among rural adults, Yang said.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with excess body weight, a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.
One of the possible reasons for the rural-urban disparity is that people living in cities are much more likely to adopt a sedentary lifestyle - eating more and exercising less - than their countrymen in rural areas, Yang said.
The other form of diabetes, type 1, has been linked to heredity.
Diabetes currently afflicts some 246 million people around the world, which the figure expected to rise to 380 million by 2025, research by the International Diabetes Federation show.
About 3.8 million deaths are attributed to diabetes every year throughout the world, Xiang Kunsan, an expert in endocrinology and metabolism and director of the Shanghai Diabetes Institute, said.
An even greater number die from cardiovascular disease made worse by diabetes-related lipid disorders and hypertension (high blood pressure), he said.
Chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are becoming public health challenges, Health Minister Chen Zhu said.
Preventive measures for the disease have been highlighted within the guidelines of the nation's medical reform, with complete details scheduled to be released at the end of next month, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
A healthy diet and regular physical exercise have both been shown to lower people's chances of developing the disease by about 30 percent, Yang said, citing results from China's Daqing IGT (impaired glucose tolerance) and Diabetes Study.
Yang urged people to regularly check their blood sugar levels and adhere strictly to therapies prescribed by their doctors.