Reconsidering the history of type 2 diabetes in India: emerging or re-emerging disease?

Natl Med J India. 2008 Nov-Dec;21(6):288-91.


The emergence of type 2 diabetes in India, coinciding with the country's rapid economic development in the past several decades, is often characterized as a modern epidemic resulting directly from westernization. We draw on India's agricultural, linguistic, medical, economic, religious and gastronomic history to examine the possibility that type 2 diabetes mellitus may have existed in ancient India, having subsequently declined in the two centuries leading up to the present. The implications of such a possibility vis-a-vis the role of westernization in the global diabetes aetiology are discussed. Additionally, an argument is made for careful application of the terms 'westernization' and 'globalization' in discussions of chronic disease aetiology, where their often totalizing discourses may obscure the sociocultural particularities of manifestations of these conditions in various global arenas.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • India
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Risk Factors