Diabetes rate sharply increases
June 27th, 2011
04:51 PM ET

Diabetes rate sharply increases

An estimated 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to new research published in the Lancet.  It describes the disease as a “rising global hazard” and says global diabetes rates have doubled from 1980 to 2008.

The study attributes 70% of the increase to population growth and aging – the risk of diabetes increases with age.  But 30% of the additional cases were caused by other risk factors such as increases in obesity, according to the report.

A consortium of researchers, with funding from the World Health Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, collected data on fasting blood glucose levels.  That information was obtained from health exam surveys and epidemiological data using advanced statistical methods.  The study included information from 2.7 million participants in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe.

The United States saw fasting glucose levels rise over twice the rate of Western Europe during the three-decade study period. Among high income countries, diabetes and glucose levels were greatest in the United States, Greenland, New Zealand, and Spain.  The United Kingdom had lower rates than most other high income countries, which is somewhat surprising given the U.K.’s obesity epidemic, the study notes. The lowest diabetes rates in wealthy nations were in Netherlands, Austria and France.  The highest rates were seen in Oceania, a region that includes Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.

Pacific Island nations such as the Marshall Islands have had high growth in diabetes with one in three women and one in four men having diabetes. South Asia, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caribbean also had high diabetes rates.  Areas with lowest prevalence of diabetes include sub-Saharan Africa, and east and southeast Asia.

The study notes that “a recent publication estimated that there were 285 million people with diabetes worldwide in 2010” but the authors explain  the higher number of diabetes cases in this new report  is most likely the result of different methods of analysis and the review of more studies.

Poorly managed diabetes can lead to heart disease and kidney disease, and the associated high health care costs.  The report concludes that countries need to do more to prevent diabetes from developing, by implementing programs that lead to weight management, more exercise, and better nutrition.  More also needs to be done to improve the detection and management of diabetes to prevent long-term side effects.

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