Diabetes continues to spread around the world
This map shows the 10 countries/territories with the highest diabetes prevalence rates in adults aged 20 to 79, in 2013.
November 14th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Diabetes continues to spread around the world

On World Diabetes Day, news about the disease's global impact is dire.

An estimated 382 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to a new report from the International Diabetes Federation. The IDF expects that number to rise to 592 million by 2035, when one in every 10 people will have the disease.

"Diabetes in all its forms imposes unacceptably high human, social and economic costs on countries at all income levels," the report authors begin in the executive summary. They go on to say that this latest edition of the Diabetes Atlas "carries a bitter but unavoidable message: despite the array of tools at our disposal to tackle the disease... the battle to protect people from diabetes and its disabling, life-threatening complications is being lost."

Epidemiologist Leonor Guariguata, project coordinator for IDF's Diabetes Atlas, wasn't surprised by the report's findings. In fact, she says the estimates are conservative, and that diabetes may be a much bigger problem than we think.

"The thing that strikes me is that we keep saying the same thing again," she said. "Every time we produce new estimates, they are above and beyond what we had projected from past estimates."

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

People who have Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, a hormone the body needs to convert sugar and starches into energy. Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile onset diabetes because it is usually diagnosed in adolescence. Around 5% of the diabetic population in the United States has Type 1 diabetes.

Cells offer hope for Type 1 diabetics

People with Type 2 diabetes have developed a resistance to the insulin their body produces. Most people who develop Type 2 diabetes are adults, although experts worry about the increasing number of young people being diagnosed.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and can increase both the mother and baby's chances of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

According to the IDF report, China, India and the United States top the list for the most cases of diabetes per country; around 24.4 million Americans had the disease in 2013.  But islands in the Pacific have the most alarming rates of prevalence, or the number of cases compared to the country's population overall.

For example, 37.5% of the population of Tokelau, located northeast of Fiji, has diabetes. Micronesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar also reported higher-than-average prevalence rates. A large part of this is due to the growing obesity problem; while all types of diabetes are on the rise, the number of people with Type 2 diabetes is expected to double in less than 25 years.

"We started seeing big increases in prevalence in those islands maybe 20, 30 years ago," Guariguata said. "That coincides with rapid development." The discovery of natural resources on the islands, she explained, led to an influx of money in the population. People started eating more imported foods and moving less.

But diabetes is no longer considered just a rich man's disease, Guariguata said. Approximately 80% of the people living with diabetes are in low- and middle-income countries.

The Middle East and North Africa currently have the highest rates of adult diabetes prevalence compared to other world regions, according to the report, but Africa will see the greatest increase in cases over the next two decades. Urban centers in Africa are showing higher prevalence rates than cities in Europe, Guariguata said, and many cases go undiagnosed and untreated because of a lack of awareness in these countries.

In addition to those that already have diabetes, IDF estimates 316 million people have IGT, or impaired glucose tolerance - also known as prediabetes. These are people at a high risk of developing the disease.

"There is no country that has solved the problem for diabetes and no country has gotten it right," Guariguata said. "The good news for all of this is diabetes is imminently treatable, with cheap generic drugs that are available and (with) lifestyle change. We're not looking at a disease that we have absolutely no response for."

Here are some other significant statistics from the IDF report:

- An estimated 5.1 million people died of diabetes-related complications in 2013

- 17% of babies in 2013 were born to women with high blood sugar levels, a sign of gestational diabetes, which Guariguata says will contribute to the global diabetes burden in years to come

- More than 79,000 children developed Type 1 diabetes in 2013; that's up from 77,800 in 2011

- The equivalent of $548 billion was spent on health care for diabetes patients around the world in 2013

soundoff (801 Responses)
  1. Greengecko

    Diabetes is spreading because junky processed foods full of sugars, simple carbohydrates and artificial ingredients are saturating the markets. And you can thank countries like the USA - where chemicals, artificial flavors, artificial colors, fillers, MSG, and poisonous calorie-free sweeteners are pumped into an unsuspecting public - for spreading these foods and the technology to make them.

    November 14, 2013 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DSP

      I totally agree 110%

      November 15, 2013 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
    • Type 1 Diabetic

      You have no Idea what you are talking about. That is type 2 diabetes bud . ever heard of schooling cause I think you need some

      December 16, 2018 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
    • Type 1 Diabetic

      Sorry if that was harsh i just get defensive

      December 16, 2018 at 16:49 | Report abuse |
  2. steve brimley

    You're right Gecko! I believe it is a "man-made" type of disease. Like why do you think more women are getting breast cancer? Do you think it has anything to do with microwave ovens around the kitchen? Most are at about that height on countertops, etc. Yet, there's always going to be something out there to help kill off humans...I think its part of checks & balances in this world. I have diabetes too and try to take care of it but I feel some day it'll get the better of me since my mom & uncle died that way. In the mean time I'll keep sticking myself, eating best I can and taking all those damn pills. Whatever...When your time is up its up...God willing...

    November 14, 2013 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nip

      breast cancer has gone up because there is a screening program in place now. the more you screen for a disease, the more cases you find

      November 14, 2013 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
  3. The Fast Doctor

    Interesting to note how the incidence of diabetes follows parallel to the increased consumption of "supplements". These drugs are sold to the most over-nourished populations and it is over-nourishment that causes diabetes.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Michaellee

    There is no worry at least getting diabetes as there is one herb called Cat's Whiskers herb which can effectively reduce the blood sugar level to normal level. This has been proven for more than 10-20 yrs and yet sadly 99.9% of the westerners still think that herbs can cure cancers and diabetes are nonsense.

    November 14, 2013 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rodger

    Maybe ramadan is not so healthy after all.

    November 14, 2013 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • geteducated

      dude Ramadan has nothing to do with it

      November 14, 2013 at 20:05 | Report abuse |
    • laserowa

      Yep, because Oceania is so full of Muslims...
      And diabetes is widespread among wealthiest Middle Eastern countries so I would say wealth and oil has more to do with it...

      November 28, 2013 at 07:17 | Report abuse |
  6. Portland tony

    No wonder people are more likely to get type 2 diabetes .......As our population ages you are at risk if you:
    are age 45 or older
    are overweight
    are physically inactive
    have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
    have high blood pressure or high cholesterol—blood fat
    have abnormal levels of HDL, or good, cholesterol or triglycerides—another type of blood fat
    had gestational diabetes—diabetes that develops only during pregnancy—or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
    have prediabetes—meaning your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes
    are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander American
    have polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS
    have a dark, velvety rash around your neck or armpits
    have blood vessel problems affecting your heart, brain, or legs.
    The majority of middle age Americans have at least some of these risk factors and since we now live longer the greater chance of sooner or later picking up a few more.....So how can these factors be mitigated?

    November 14, 2013 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Type 1 Diabetes Awareness

    As a parent of two kids with Type 1 diabetes, I greatly appreciate how the author of this article clarified the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. My kids are thin, active, healthy boys...but they are insulin-dependent for the rest of their lives. So often people mistakenly think that because of diet or lifestyle choices, type 1 diabetics developed the disease. Nope, not true.

    Also note how the article mentions that ONLY 5% of diabetics in America have Type 1, which is an auto-immune disease with no cure. That reminds us that the remaining 95% of diabetics have Type 2, which–though there's no official "cure"–CAN be managed with diet and exercise. Cut out the processed sugars and starches. Don't eat a bunch of bread and pasta. Stick with the good stuff.

    November 14, 2013 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DD

      I am also a parent of two kids with TYPE 1 diabetes – an autoimmune condition. I agree with your post completely. Many people assume that TYPE1 diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar and processed foods when that is completely false. Too often articles don't differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

      November 20, 2013 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
  8. Jim Nelson

    Did Leonor Guariguata really say "imminently" treatable? Or is this just defective reporting? Otherwise an interesting and alarming article.

    November 14, 2013 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Amjad

    I am also diabatic patient but you must becareful from junks,sugar and must exercise regularly. In pakistan also lncreas fastly this diseas due to changes of life style

    November 15, 2013 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Education and diabetes

    A person with Type 1 diabetes is not a "diabetic", just as a person with epilepsy is not an "epileptic". A person with a chronic disease is not "the disease" , yet it is still used to categorise and label people. Granted the article has many good references, but it lacks the understanding of each diabetes type in its writing.

    I am always wary of those who use statistical data ... as can be seen in this article. Commonly, statistics are used as a fear based method to make people "good" with their diabetes, as many of them must be "bad" with their lifestyle (re: type 2 diabetes). This could not be further from the truth and I am always encouraging people to keep an open mind when comparing 'statistics' with their own life.

    Education is vital when it comes to diabetes, and it is highly encouraged to become an expert in your own right. Granted, diabetes 'may' cause a shorter lifespan to many people, but we must remember ... less than 100 years ago, diabetes was a guaranteed death sentence.

    November 16, 2013 at 03:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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