Predicted diabetes rise may be much greaterResearch points to global health problem

02 March 2007

Forecasts of soaring rates of diabetes in the next two decades may be wildly underestimated, a new study suggests.

Evidence from Canada indicates that the diabetes 'time-bomb' may be a far worse global health threat than anyone has imagined.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that the prevalence of diabetes among adults will reach 6.4 per cent by 2030 - a 60 per cent increase since 1995.

But researchers found that in Ontario, the proportion of people suffering from the disease had already far outstripped that estimate.

Diabetes time-bomb

Between 1995 and 2005, diabetes prevalence in the Canadian province rose by 69 per cent.

In just five years from 2000 to 2005, diabetes rates in Ontario increased by 27 per cent. In comparison, the WHO has predicted a 39 per cent increase in prevalence between 2000 and 2030.

The vast majority of these cases involve non-insulin dependent, or type 2 diabetes, which often goes hand-in-hand with obesity.

One reason for the surge in Ontario could be that the region has attracted a lot of immigrant southern Asians, who are known to be prone to the condition.

But despite this, the authors of the new research believe the new findings point to an alarming trend with potentially devastating consequences worldwide.

Heart disease

Diabetes can lead to a host of serious health problems, including heart disease and blindness.

The disease occurs when the body cannot properly utilise sugar to provide energy. This results from either a lack of insulin - the hormone that controls sugar use - or because the effects of insulin are no longer felt.

Around 2.2 million people in the UK have diabetes - 3.5 per cent of the population.

According to the WHO, the number of people in the world with diabetes rose from 30 million to 171 million between 1985 and 2000.

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