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Over the past decades the prevalence of diabetes type II has doubled

Comment by Susana Sans, EACPR Prevention, Epidemiology and Population Science Section

Diabetes and the Heart

The increase in overweight and obesity worldwide has triggered concerns about a global diabetes epidemic and its impact in life expectancy and health care costs.

Previous studies examining global patterns of diabetes found substantial geographical variation but they were weakened by problems of definition, external validity, fasting status, selection bias, and underlying trends of the samples included.

Founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by WHO, the present study put together data from national and regional health examination surveys and epidemiological studies for adults from age 25 onwards from 199 countries and territories, summarising results from 2.7 million participants.

Using Bayesian hierarchical statistics and other complex methods to take into account the limitation problems mentioned above, the authors show that mean glucose level and prevalence of diabetes increased globally between 1980 and 2008. The number of people with diabetes increased from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2008. The regions of the world with the largest increases were Oceania, South Asia, Southern and tropical Latin America and to a lesser extent Western countries.

This increase is driven by three forces, namely population growth, ageing of the population and increase of age-specific prevalence rates. Given that primary prevention measures for diabetes are thought to be effective in the mid-long term, it is imperative that health services put in place measures to improve the detection and management of diabetes to prevent its macro and micro vascular complications.