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Number Of Adults With Diabetes Doubled Over Past Three Decades, Study Shows

The number of adults with type 2 diabetes has doubled worldwide over the last three decades, rising from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million, “a sign that the epidemic will impose an ever-greater cost burden on health systems,” according to a study published on Saturday in the Lancet, the Wall Street Journal reports (Naik, 6/27).

“The researchers concluded that about 70% of the increase was due to aging of the population and the remaining 30% was due to the growing incidence of obesity, which is a major risk factor for diabetes,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog (Maugh, 6/25).

“For the Lancet study, the largest of its kind for diabetes, researchers analyzed fasting plasma glucose (FPG) data from 2.7 million participants aged 25 and over across the world, and then used advanced statistical methods to estimate prevalence,” Reuters notes (Kelland/Beasley, 6/25).

“With numbers climbing almost everywhere, experts said the disease is no longer limited to rich countries and is now a global problem. Countries in which the numbers rose fastest include Cape Verde, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, and the United States,” the Associated Press/Boston Globe reports (Cheng, 6/26). “Fasting blood sugar was lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Southeast Asia and Andean South America,” the Washington Post notes (Brown, 6/25)

Diabetes “is set to become the single largest burden on world health care systems,” Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London and one of the study’s main authors, said, adding, “Many nations are going to find it very difficult to cope with the consequences.” In an accompanying editorial, Martin Tobias of the ministry of health in New Zealand, wrote there is “no worldwide surveillance network for diabetes, as there is for communicable diseases such as influenza.” “Given the inexorable rise in case numbers that is now occurring, there was now ‘an urgent need’ to establish proper monitoring of the disease, he added,” according to the Guardian’s Observer.

The study was funded by the WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (McKie, 6/25).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.