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Dec 13, 2013

Experts Alarmed by Diabetes Trends

Global diabetes rates are at an all-time high and expected to increase in coming years.

The “diabetes apocalypse” is upon us, according to a review recently published in a leading medical journal, The Lancet.

Prediction of a worldwide increase in diabetes was first published in 1994 and as far as we can tell, experts were right. In 1994, experts estimated that 110 million people worldwide suffered from diabetes—a serious disease that causes high blood sugar and increases risk for a number of complications like heart disease and kidney disease.

Today, the International Diabetes Federation predicts that 382 million people across the globe are living with diabetes and by 2035, this statistic will nearly double. The consequences of rising diabetes rates are already apparent. In 2010, an estimated $376 billion was spent on diabetes, accounting for 12% of global health costs, and like diabetes rates, costs are expected to grow in coming years.

Currently, diabetes rates are highest in China, where nearly 98.4 million people are affected by diabetes, followed by India, the United States, Brazil and Russia. Lead author of this paper, Professor Paul Zimmet AO, believes that a number of factors contribute to the diabetes epidemic, such as poor diet and high rates of physical inactivity. Poor management of diabetes, especially in low-income countries, may also contribute to worse outcomes among those living with diabetes.

But perhaps most interesting was Zimmet’s proposed connection between drought and famine and diabetes. During famines, expecting mothers are unable to consume the nutrients that their children need and research shows that fetal malnutrition increases risk of diabetes. That’s why places like China and Cambodia have seen major increases in diabetes rates 40–50 years after severe famines.

Authors encourage future research on this topic, as we need to learn from countries where diabetes rates are increasing at a rapid rate. We also need to learn how to best help developing nations, where diabetes rates are exceptionally high. Zimmet hopes that with this paper, diabetes research will be given highest priority in the public health sector to help combat the diabetes epidemic and help people improve their health, worldwide.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce any insulin—a hormone that converts sugar into energy. This type of diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when the body resists insulin or does not produce enough insulin, and can be prevented in some patients.
  • Why is blood sugar control important for patients with diabetes?
  • Keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible can help prevent or slow the progress of many complications of diabetes. To get tight control, you should pay attention to diet and exercise, keep close track of blood glucose levels, and if you take insulin, closely manage your injection schedule.

  • How can I prevent Type 2 diabetes?

  • Although exactly why some individuals develop Type 2 diabetes and some don’t, there are some known risk factors for this condition, like being overweight and inactive. There are also risk factors that can’t be controlled, such as family history, age and race.

Related

Good and Bad News for Diabetes Drugs in Recent Studies

Two clinical trials fail to show cardiovascular benefits from tight blood sugar control using a common class of diabetes drugs.

Treating Prediabetes Can Prevent Full-Blown Diabetes

Researchers found that people achieving normal blood sugar levels, even for a short period of time, were significantly less likely to develop diabetes.

Exercise and Diet Remain Important for Diabetes Prevention and Control

Study shows that lifestyle intervention improves weight, fitness, blood pressure, and cholesterol in adults with diabetes, but doesn’t reduce cardiovascular risk.

Legumes Improve Blood Sugar Control and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetics

Patients with diabetes may want to think twice when choosing between whole wheat foods and legumes, like beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

The Role of Physical Activity in the Maintenance of Type 2 Diabetes

Getting 150 minutes of exercise weekly improves blood sugar control in diabetics.

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