There has been a rapid increase in the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in India, in association with rapid changes in diet and lifestyle. In adults, the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and coronary artery disease is two- to threefold greater in the urban population than in rural populations; it is associated with modest insulin resistance in urban groups.

In response to a proposal by the International College of Nutrition that specialist experts should develop consensus recommendations for the prevention of chronic diseases, Indian specialists in diabetes and vascular disease have collaborated to produce guidelines relevant to the population of India.

Because Indian urban populations have a modest increase in overweight and low rates of obesity in association with the rapid emergence of diabetes and cardiovascular risk, a body mass index of 21 kg/m2 should be considered safe, with a range of 19-23 kg/m2 acceptable; > 23 kg/m2 should be considered overweight, and > 25 kg/m2 should be taken to indicate obesity. A waist:hip ratio > 0.88 in males and > 0.85 in females should be considered to indicate central obesity, because the prevalence of coronary disease, hypertension and associated disturbances of insulin resistance are more common above these limits. For the prevention of vascular disease, there is general international consensus that the desirable serum concentration of cholesterol should be < 170 mg/dl (> 4.42 mmol/l), which may also be optimal for Indians; values between 170 and 200 mg/dl (4.42-5.2 mmol/l) should be considered borderline. The critical values for low density lipoprotein cholesterol may be < 90 mg/dl (ideal), 90-110 mg/dl (borderline high) and > 110 mg/dl (high) (< 2.32, 2.32-2.84 and > 2.84 mmol/l, respectively). Fasting triglycerides should be < 150 mg/dl (< 1.69 mmol/l) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol > 35 mg/dl (> 0.9 mmol/l). The limit for the total energy derived from fat intake should be < 21%/day (7% each for saturated, polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids). The carbohydrate intake should provide more than 65% of daily energy, mainly from complex carbohydrates. A daily dietary intake of 400 g fruits, vegetables and legumes, 400 g cereals, in conjunction with 25 g soya bean or mustard or canola oils (rich in n-3 fatty acids) in place of fats rich in saturated fat, may be protective against diabetes and vascular disease. Moderate physical activity with the aim of burning 300 Kcal/day (> 1255 KJ/day), and cessation of tobacco and alcohol consumption, may provide an effective programme for prevention of diabetes and its vascular complications in Indians.