Sunday, June 26, 2011

More than 350 million people in the world now have diabetes, an international study has revealed. The analysis, published online by the Lancet on Saturday, adds several tens of millions to the previous estimate of the number of diabetics and indicates that the disease has become a major global health problem.

Diabetics have inadequate blood sugar control, a condition that can lead to heart disease and strokes, as well as damage to kidneys, nerves and the retina. About three million deaths a year are attributed to diabetes and associated conditions in which blood sugar levels are disrupted.

The dramatic and disturbing increase is blamed by scientists on the spread of a western-style diet to developing nations, which is causing rising levels of obesity. Researchers also say that increased life expectancy is playing a major role.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for about 85-95% of cases, and is often tied to obesity. It develops when the body fails to produce enough insulin to break down glucose, inflating blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is a separate auto-immune disorder.

"Diabetes is one of the biggest causes of mortality worldwide, and our study has shown that it is becoming more common almost everywhere. It is set to become the single largest burden on world health care systems," one of the study's main authors, Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial College London, told the Observer. "Many nations are going to find it very difficult to cope with the consequences." (read more)