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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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
problem; while all types of diabetes are on the rise, the
number of people with Type 2 diabetes is expected to
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
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
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