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Worldwide Diabetes More Than Doubled Since 1980

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blood sugar monitor held in handDiabetes incidence has been climbing precipitously in the developed world along with rises in obesity rates and dietary and other lifestyle changes. But a massive new study finds that the rest of the global population has not been immune to these changes. Globally, the rate of diabetes has more than doubled in the past three decades.

For the new study, researchers analyzed the blood glucose levels of more than 2.7 million adults (25 years and older) in 199 countries. By their calculation, as of 2008 about 350 million people had diabetes, a disease that renders the body unable to properly control blood sugar levels and can lead to kidney failure and death. In 1980, that figure was closer to 153 million. The new work published online June 25 in The Lancet.

"Diabetes is one of the biggest causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide," Majid Ezzati, of the Center for Environment and Health at Imperial College in London and co-author of the new study, said in a prepared statement. The escalation of diabetes stands "in contrast to blood pressure and cholesterol, which have both fallen in many regions," he added. But "diabetes is much harder to prevent and treat." Not only is there no cure for diabetes, it is also a costly disease. In the U.S. alone, it eats up about $174 billion each year for the approximately 18 million people who have been diagnosed.

Much of the rise can be attributed to an aging population. But about 30 percent of the increase is likely due to other factors, such as lifestyle changes and obesity.

The biggest increases were in Pacific Island countries and Saudi Arabia, and the lowest overall rates were in sub-Saharan Africa. When averaged across countries, about 9.8 percent of men and 9.2 percent of women now have diabetes.

Martin Tobais, of the Health and Disability Intelligence department of the New Zealand Ministry of Health, calls the new findings stark, in an essay also published online in The Lancet. There is an "urgent need…to strengthen basic surveillance of dysglycaemia and diabetes," he noted. The disease often goes undiagnosed, even in countries such as the U.S., where medical care is typically more accessible than in the developing world. The American Diabetes Association estimates that more than a quarter of people with diabetes in the U.S. have not been diagnosed, which can lead to worse health outcomes.

Image: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


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  1. 1. sistahsenn 4:48 pm 06/25/2011

    This date coincides with the introduction of GMO frankenfoods and many scientist are finding many other connections of these mutated foods to other health issues as well. Too bad the US government wouldn’t acknowledge a scientific fact if it bit them in the bumm.

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  2. 2. jtdwyer 7:28 pm 06/25/2011

    Since the results are reported here in absolute numbers, "as of 2008 about 350 million people had diabetes"; "In 1980, that figure was closer to 153 million," we can’t be certain that the analysis even controlled for population growth. In 1980 there were 4.5 billion people; there are now nearly 7 billion. Population growth alone could explain much of the increase in the total number of estimated diabetes sufferers.

    Another variable statistical component in such studies is that medical examinations, diagnosis and treatment have not remained constant during the past thirty years. How many more people are examined for diabetes now compared to 1980?

    The article states:
    "The biggest increases were in Pacific Island countries and Saudi Arabia, and the lowest overall rates were in sub-Saharan Africa."

    Could it be that improved health care and diabetes examinations in the Pacific Island countries and Saudi Arabia contributed to increased numbers of diagnoses, while in sub-Saharan Africa no such improvements occurred?

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  3. 3. auntygravity 1:31 am 06/26/2011

    Excuse me, this isn’t "science", it’s misreporting and manipulation of statistical data to support a biased assumption. Or, maybe i’m wrong here, maybe what science is really all about is application of selective data in support of political agendas?

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  4. 4. ironjustice 3:43 pm 06/26/2011

    Quote: "The biggest increases were in Pacific Island countries and Saudi Arabia, and the lowest overall rates were in sub-Saharan Africa."
    Answer: Is it coincidence the Pacific Islanders have been found to have the highest blood iron levels of anyone ?
    "Asians, Pacific Islanders Have Highest Blood Iron Levels"

    There is an active NIH trial of iron depletion for diabetes and NAFLD ‘
    "Iron Depletion Therapy for Type 2 DM and NAFLD"

    IS ? it the increased iron ?

    "Evidence is accumulating that excessive body iron plays a causal role in insulin resistance through still undefined mechanisms"
    "Iron in fatty liver and in the metabolic syndrome: a promising therapeutic target"
    "Frequent finding in the general population"
    "One third of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and the metabolic syndrome"
    "Asians, Pacific Islanders Have Highest Blood Iron Levels"

    Link to this
  5. 5. jtdwyer 5:05 pm 06/26/2011

    The unspecified study referred to in this article reportedly indicated that people in Pacific Island countries and Saudi Arabia indicate the greatest increase in the incidence of diabetes.

    If diabetes is caused by high blood levels of iron, it should be expected that people in the Pacific Island countries would have the greatest increases in blood levels of iron. Are their iron levels increasing?

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  6. 6. PrettyOld 11:09 am 06/27/2011

    The Anti Obesity drug makers and diabetes drug makers take in 10 billion$$$$ every year with no cure!!

    Food Chemicals are the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

    The FDA and Drug makers know this and are laughing to the Billionaire$$$ bank

    The food chemicals break the gut(insulin) and this is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis

    A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes and Obesity in now 10 countries and the drug makers do not promote the story http:/

    just google SPIRIT HAPPY.ORG

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  7. 7. ironjustice 11:52 am 06/27/2011

    THIS is how it seems to happen. The glucose interacts with the iron. They are most likely eating more raw glucose.

    "Curcumin can be used to chelate the iron involved in catalyzing the branching chain reaction, which yields lipofuscin and products that, if glycated by sugar (glucose), produce hard-to-remove Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs)."

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  8. 8. JDCA2025 2:05 pm 09/22/2011

    Yes, these statistics have been around the news a lot lately, particularly with the UN Summit on non-communicable diseases recently. I think one of the main things we can take from this is that the current system of dealing with such diseases is non-sustainable. The numbers are rising, both for type 1 and type 2, and some countries in particular are struggling to deal with the issue and provide the proper treatment.

    What we need most of all, however, is to gather all available resources and really push for a cure. The donors are giving money, science is making progress, but we need more transparency from the diabetes foundations, and a more focused and better organized effort. A Practical Cure that would eliminate the body’s dependence on external sources of insulin would solve a great deal of problems, and be one of the top discoveries of our time.

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  9. 9. ratford2 10:03 am 02/10/2012

    Since my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes six years ago, I have read a lot of atricles like this one. The one thing that never seems to be brought up it the fact that diabete also has a genetic link too. A person has to have the gene to become diabetic. With the better care taken by diabetic, they are living longer and reproducing more then ever; thankfully. The gene is being passed on to the next generation more. This could account for some of the increase in the number of cases!

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