Glycemia and diabetes are on a rapid rise worldwide, driven by population growth and aging, a new study reports in The Lancet.
Obesity and inactivity are the main causes for the increase in the disease, according to the study, which traced trends in diabetes and average blood-sugar readings in 199 countries and regions over the past three decades.
In 2008, the prevalence of the disease worldwide in men 25 and older rose to 9.8 percent compared to 8.3 percent in 1980. For women in the same age range, diabetes rose from 7.5 percent in 1980 to 9.2 percent in 2008.
Between those years, the number of people with diabetes, which can often lead to infections, heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations, more than doubled from 153 million to 347 million worldwide, the study reports.
Diabetes is most common in the South Pacific islands, due to a genetic proclivity for the disease and increase in obesity; diabetes prevalence is 25 percent in men and 32 percent in women in some places. Saudi Arabia ranks third, Jordan eighth, and Kuwait tenth in diabetes among men in 2008.
Among high-income countries, the United States recorded the largest increase in the disease over the past three decades, according to the study. In 2008, 12.6 percent of American men and 9.1 percent of American women had the disease.
Diabetes prevalence in 2008 were also high in south Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, central Asia, north Africa, and the Middle East. Portions of high-income regions in Western Europe noted the smallest rise in the disease, the study reports.
China and India, which account for 40 percent of people with diabetes today, will be the countries to watch over the next several decades, according to the study, because of the population growth in both countries—particularly China, where obesity and inactivity have paralleled the country’s economic boom.
As a result, medical costs to fight the disease are also expected to rise in the coming decades, according to the study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“This is likely to be one of the defining features of global health in the coming decades,” said Majid Ezzati, PhD, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at Imperial College London, England, who headed the study on behalf of the Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases Collaborating Group. “There’s simply the magnitude of the problem. And then there’s the fact that unlike high blood pressure and high cholesterol, we don’t really have good treatments for diabetes.”