There has been a common trend in the South Asian population, both those who live in and around the subcontinent but also with those living abroad of having diabetes. In India alone. There were a 101 million estimated cases of diabetes in the country of India alone. But why is the number so high for this demographic.

Diabetes in the South Asian population has been a growing problem in recent years, but its cause can be traced back to colonialism. As the British Raj, as it was formerly known, was oppressed, more goods were being transported out of the subcontinent for the British Empire’s profit. However, those in power paid little attention to the people who were tending their farms and ultimately left millions starving. Infamously, Winston Churchill is linked to the Bengal famine of 1943 as rice stocks were piled up for Britain, rather than being used to feed the starving Bengali population. As a result, the population evolved to have a starvation adaptive diet, and this was common trend across the sub-continent.

Moving forward 80 years, as the subcontinent has rapidly developed, with industrialisation and economic development, these threats of famines are rarely on the minds of most South Asians. Abundant, even excess, food is available in major population centres meaning people can eat out more often and most will often consume foods with high carb, high fat, and high sugar food items that are not being fully digested yet. Remnants from the colonial past are still prevalent as the South Asian body tries to store as much energy as possible in preparation for a famine, even if there is no threat.

As the number of diabetes cases rise in South Asians, it is important to recognise dietary problems and both families and larger public health bodies need to work together to change eating habits; both within the South Asian countries but also in countries abroad with large South Asian populations e.g. the UK and the US.