Asia is in the grip of a diabetes epidemic.

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In human and financial terms, the burden is huge and it is hitting the poor especially hard.

Often thought of as a disease of the rich, experts say the unabating rise may be fuelled as much by food scarcity and insecurity as it is by excess.

Changing lifestyles, rapid urbanisation and cheap calories in the form of processed foods are putting more and more people at risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.

There are now 382 million people worldwide living with diabetes,according to new figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

More than half are in Asia and the Western Pacific, where 90-95% of cases are classed as Type-2.

China is leading the world, with the disease now affecting more than 98 million people or about 10% of the population - a dramatic increase from about 1% in 1980.

Asia is in the grip of a diabetes epidemic.

Prof Juliana Chan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong says there is a complex interplay between genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors, which have been compounded by China's rapid modernisation.

"Diabetes is a disease of paradoxes," she says.

"It is typically an ageing disease, but the data shows that the young and middle-aged are most vulnerable. It is prevalent in obese people but emerging data suggests that for lean people with diabetes the outcome can be worse."

The big question is whether China has the capacity to deal with a health problem of such magnitude.

China spent $17bn (£10.6bn) on diabetes last year. The disease may consume more than half of China's annual health budget, if all those with the condition get routine, state-funded care, the IDF says.

"Diabetes is a silent killer in a silent population," says Prof Chan.

Men and women, trapped by stigma, poverty and misinformation, often do not seek help for diabetes until it is in its advanced stages.

Zoe Murphy for BBC News

Source: (Nov. 15, 2013)