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347 million adults have diabetes, study finds

By Maria Cheng
Associated Press / June 26, 2011

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LONDON — The number of adults with diabetes worldwide has more than doubled in three decades, to an estimated 347 million, a new study says.

Much of that increase is due to aging populations — since diabetes typically hits in middle age — and population growth, but part of it has also been fueled by rising obesity rates.

With numbers climbing almost everywhere, experts said the disease is no longer limited to rich countries and is now a global problem. Countries in which the numbers rose fastest include Cape Verde, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, and the United States.

“Diabetes may well become the defining issue of global health for the next decade,’’ said Majid Ezzati, chairman of global environmental health at Imperial College London, one of the study authors.

He noted the figures do not reflect the generations of overweight children and young adults who have yet to reach middle age. That could create a massive burden on health systems.

“We are not at the peak of this wave yet,’’ he said. “And unlike high blood pressure and cholesterol, we still don’t have great treatments for diabetes.’’

Still, in Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe, despite growing waistlines, there was only a slight rise in diabetes. Experts were not sure why and said there could be several reasons, including poorer detection of the disease, genetic differences, or perhaps the Europeans were better at getting heavy people to reduce their chances of developing diabetes.

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