Diabetes on 'relentless march' across world
Posted April 16, 2016
Recent news that obesity is now a bigger problem than malnutrition has a troubling corollary: Diabetes is surging dangerously, too.
In a report released earlier this month, the World Health Organization said that globally, the number of adults with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980.
Some 422 million people — 8.5 percent of the world’s population — have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, which can usually be controlled when properly diagnosed and treated. But the WHO notes that diabetes is no longer a disease of wealthy nations: Over the past decade, it has expanded the most in low- and middle-income countries, many of which are poorly prepared to deal with the disease.
It killed 1.5 million people worldwide in 2012, was the eighth-leading cause of death among all people, and the fifth-leading cause of death among women, the WHO said.
The rapid spread of the disease has made it clear that diabetes is no laughing matter, as employees at a Florida Starbucks recently found out. An irate customer in St. Augustine called a local television station after receiving a sugary drink with a label that said “Diabetes here I come," The Huffington Post reported.
The customer, who did not want to be identified, said he was especially upset because two of his sisters have diabetes. Starbucks quickly walked back its involvement, saying it was “disappointed” in the employee who was responsible, and the label was widely decried as in poor taste, as well as misleading. Even though diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly process blood sugar, Type 1 cannot be prevented and is not caused by diet.
Type 2, however, is largely preventable and is linked to obesity and inactivity, as the WHO report pointed out.
While Starbucks has stores in 70 countries, its corporate presence is dwarfed by the incidence of diabetes, now said to affect 1 out of every 11 people worldwide.
The disease’s growth has been particularly explosive in the Middle East, the BBC reported. The number of adults with diabetes there soared from 6 million to 43 million between 1980 and 2014.
In some subgroups — like older adults — the percentage of people with diabetes exceeds 30 percent. This triples their risk of a heart attack and heightens their risk of stroke, amputation, kidney failure and blindness, the BBC said. Diabetes can also cause complications in pregnancy.
Dr. Etienne Krug, a WHO official, said the “unrelenting march” of the disease must be countered with stricter regulation by governments and more responsible behavior by the food industry, as well as individual efforts.
“The ‘easy’ solution is for all of us to exercise, eat healthily and not gain excess weight — of course, it’s not so easy,” Krug said.