More than half a billion people live with diabetes worldwide. The disease affects men, women and children of all ages in every country.
A study published in ‘The Lancet‘ projects that the number of people with diabetes will rise to 1.3 billion in the next 30 years in every country and territory in the world.
The study used information from the 2021 Global Burden of Disease study, in which researchers examined the prevalence, morbidity and mortality of diabetes in 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2021 and forecast the prevalence of diabetes to 2050.
Overall, they found that 529 million people around the world were living with diabetes in 2021, with a global prevalence of 6.1%.
By 2050, the study projects, 43.6% of 204 countries will have diabetes prevalence greater than 10%, and more than 1.3 billion people will be diagnosed with Type 1 or 2 diabetes.
Diabetes rates were highest in North Africa and the Middle East, where 8.7% to 9.9% of people have diabetes, but that number is projected to jump to 16.8% by 2050.
The rate in Latin America and the Caribbean is projected to increase to 11.3%.
Qatar had the highest age-specific prevalence of diabetes, with 76% of people aged 75-79 living with the disease in 2021.
The study found that Type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent than Type 1, accounting for 96% of total diabetes cases.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune problem, in which the immune system attacks beta cells in the pancreas, reducing insulin production. Insulin is a vital hormone for regulating blood sugar levels, allowing sugar (glucose) to enter cells. No insulin means the cells can’t take up the glucose needed to produce energy.
Type 2 diabetes is different: It can develop over time through factors such as diet, body mass and age. In 2021, 52% of Type 2 diabetes cases were linked to high body mass index (BMI).
There are multiple causes for the global rise in Type 2 diabetes rates, but changes in the food industry and lifestyles are the major factors.
It’s also the increased consumption of cheap ultraprocessed foods that has caused the increased prevalence in lower-income countries.
Diabetes is a huge burden on health care systems around the world. The United States spent $327 billion (€301 billion) caring for people with diabetes in 2017, and that’s to say nothing about the unquantifiable personal burden of living with diabetes.
What can the world do to avoid a climb in diabetes rates — or even to reduce rates? It’s a tough question with no single answer.