Diabetes Cases Might Skyrocket From 529 million to 1.3 billion by 2050

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A recent study published in The Lancet reveals that over half a billion individuals live with diabetes worldwide, affecting people of all genders, ages, and nationalities. Shockingly, this number is projected to more than double within the next three decades, reaching 1.3 billion people. This increase is expected to occur in every country across the globe. Consequently, diabetes is poised to become one of the top 10 leading causes of death and disability. 

The study indicates that the current global prevalence rate stands at 6.1%. At a super-region level, North Africa and the Middle East have the highest rate at 9.3%, predicted to rise to 16.8% by 2050. The projected increase is 11.3% in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Furthermore, the research highlights the prevalence of diabetes among individuals aged 65 and older in every country, with a worldwide rate exceeding 20% for this demographic. Notably, the highest rate of 24.4% is observed among those aged 75 to 79. When examining the data on a super-regional scale, North Africa and the Middle East exhibit the highest rate at 39.4% for this age group. At the same time, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia have the lowest rate at 19.8%. 

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) accounts for almost all cases (96%) globally. The study identifies 16 risk factors associated with T2D, with a high body mass index (BMI) being the primary risk factor, contributing to 52.2% of T2D disability and mortality. Other risk factors include dietary risks, environmental/occupational risks, tobacco use, low physical activity, and alcohol use. 

Dr. Liane Ong, the study’s lead author, expresses concern over the alarming rate at which diabetes is growing and its associated risks, such as ischemic heart disease and stroke. Dr. Ong emphasizes the complexity of preventing and controlling diabetes, which involves not only addressing factors like obesity, exercise, and diet but also considering genetics, logistical challenges, and socio-economic barriers within a country’s healthcare system, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. 

Lauryn Stafford, the second author of the study, emphasizes the need for a comprehensive understanding of the impact of diabetes on populations, taking into account the conditions in which people are born and live and the global disparities. Such disparities can affect access to screening, treatment, and healthcare services. The researchers call for a more detailed analysis of diabetes at a granular level. 

The study utilized data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2021 study, examining the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of diabetes across 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2021. The researchers also forecasted diabetes prevalence until 2050, provided estimates for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D), and determined the proportion of T2D burden attributable to the 16 identified risk factors.

The research was conducted by a team of scientists from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and collaborators from around the world involved in the GBD 2021 project. 

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