Diabetes: a growing epidemic

November 20, 2015

The burden of diabetes is increasing globally, particularly in developing countries. Currently 1 in 11 adults (415 million people) have diabetes, by 2040 this figure is predicted to rise to 1 in 10 adults. The causes are complex, but the increase is in large part due to a rapid increase in obesity levels and physical inactivity.

To mark WDD the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for greater awareness and action to turn the growing tide of the global diabetes epidemic.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

There are two major forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes which is characterised by a lack of insulin production and type 2 diabetes which results from the body's ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1, accounting for approximately 90% of all diabetes worldwide.

Although type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, steps can be taken which can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. The IDF estimates that up to 70% of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through lifestyle interventions, including:

  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Being physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days
  • Eating a healthy diet of between 3 and 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and reducing sugar and saturated fats intake
  • Avoiding tobacco use

  • As the prevalence of diabetes increases, the need to learn how to minimise one’s risk of getting it, and to know how to detect and treat it, are increasing in importance.