New global diabetes figures mark World Diabetes Day

by Barbara Hewitt on November 15, 2013

Diabetes kills one person every six seconds and affects 382 million people worldwide, according to new figures from the International Diabetes Federation on this year’s World Diabetes Day.

The federation’s sixth Diabetes Atlas shows that diabetes is on the increase in all countries and predicts that one in 10 of the world’s population will have diabetes by 2035 due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.


The IDF estimates an average 10 million diabetes cases emerging globally every year

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes had climbed 4.4% over the last two years alone, affecting 5% of the world’s population.

‘We estimate that people living with diabetes will surge from 382 million to 592 million people by 2035, many in low and middle income countries and the majority under 60 years of age,’ said Sir Michael Hirst, president of the IDF.

Hirst said that this surge will form the backdrop of the World Diabetes Congress 2013 which gets under way next month. ‘It must place diabetes very high on the agenda of health ministers throughout the world,’ he commented.

‘Diabetes is a disease of development. The misconception that diabetes is a disease of the wealthy is still held, to the detriment of desperately needed funding to combat the pandemic. In coming years we have much to do in making the case for those who have diabetes now and will have in the future,’ explained Sir Michael.

World Diabetes Day marks the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting who discovered insulin. Before this breakthrough diabetics died, usually at a very young age.

‘We haven’t seen any kind of stabilizing, any kind of reversal. Diabetes continues to be a very big problem and is increasing even beyond previous projections,’ said Leonor Guariguata, an epidemiologist and project coordinator for IDF’s Diabetes Atlas which is published every two years.

The IDF also points out that type 2 diabetes is becoming a huge financial burden on governments, and led to $548 billion in global health care spending this year. To counter the surge, it recommends policy makers across many sectors should devise concerted action.

‘It’s all about awareness, awareness and awareness. Diabetes is a silent disease, so the best thing we can do about it is to talk about it,’ said Mike Doustdar, senior vice president of Novo Nordisk, the world’s biggest insulin producer.

The IDF said that the call is not going unheard. In May, health officials from almost 200 countries adopted nine targets, such as reducing average daily salt consumption by 30 percent by 2025, in a bid to fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and called for curbs on marketing unhealthy food to children under a plan to cut the world’s leading causes of death.

But it warns that more help is needed. The IDF estimates that 5.1 million people die annually because of the disease, with an average 10 million diabetes cases emerging every year. The majority of cases affect 40 to 59 year olds and every year, diabetes also leads to more than one million amputations, 500,000 kidney failures and 1.5 million cases of blindness.

The worrying thing is that younger adults are developing diabetes, according to Guariguata. ‘That’s telling us that the pace of the epidemic is faster than the pace of change of demographics alone,’ she pointed out.

The new projections may not even be giving a full picture of the situation, according to the federation. ‘These are probably substantial underestimates of what the real problem is. You can only work on the information that’s available to work on,’ said Paul Zimmet, honorary president of IDF and director emeritus of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.

He added that four of every five people with diabetes are in developing countries where there aren’t big studies to work with. For example, in China, recent figures showed that the epidemic is worse than previously estimated. The most comprehensive nationwide survey for diabetes ever conducted in the Asian country showed 12% of adults, or 114 million people, have the disease.

‘The problem is bigger in poorer regions that have fewer resources at hand to fight the diseases, for example South Africa, and where more people die of disease before the age of 60. These are preventable deaths, premature deaths that don’t have to occur,’ added Guariguata.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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