Diabetes rate ‘doubles’ – Imperial College and Harvard research suggests

DiabetesThe number of adults with diabetes in the world has more than doubled since 1980, according to a new study.

Researchers from Imperial College London and Harvard University analysed data from 2.7m people across every continent, using statistical techniques to project a worldwide figure.

They claim the total number of people with diabetes – which can be fatal – has risen from 153m to 347m.

The authors called for better detection and treatment to combat the rise.

The study was published in The Lancet medical journal.

Its authors said 70% of the rise was down to people living longer.

The rise has been most pronounced in the Pacific Islands. In the Marshall Islands a third of all women have the condition.

Majid Ezzati, of Imperial College London, said: “Diabetes is becoming more common almost everywhere in the world.

“Unless we develop better programs for detecting people with elevated blood sugar and helping them to control their weight, diabetes will continue to impose a major burden on health systems around the world.”

Diabetes leads to inadequate blood sugar control, which can damage the kidneys and cause blindness. It can also cause heart disease and strokes.

The condition is closely linked with obesity. Patients have to inject themselves with insulin.

Of developed nations, the US had the highest prevalence. The diabetes rate was relatively low in western Europe.

Drug market booming

The study, carried out in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, found that the diabetes rate had either risen or stayed the same in virtually every country.

Spending on diabetes medicines – already worth £22bn annually – could hit £30bn by 2015, according to drug research firm IMS Health.

Dennis Urbaniak, of pharmaceutical firm Sanofi, said: “This is a chronic, progressive condition.

“What we are most worried about is the number of people out there with diabetes that is not optimally controlled.”