New study: there will be 1.3 billion diabetics in 2050

The magazine “The Lancet” published that in 2050 there will be more than twice as many diabetics in the world than now. They will increase from 529 million to 1,300 million. What is behind it and how can this trend be stopped?

A new study, published this Thursday June 22 in The Lancet, predicted that the number of diabetics will increase from 529 million today to 1.3 billion in the next 30 years worldwide.

Diabetes, a global health problem

The report used information from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2021. The researchers studied the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of diabetes in 204 countries and territories between 1990 and 2021 and forecast the prevalence of diabetes through 2050.

They found that in 2021, 529 million people worldwide were living with diabetes, a global prevalence of 6.1%. In 2050, 43.6% of 204 countries will have diabetics with a prevalence greater than 10%. The highest rates were in North Africa and the Middle East, between 8.7% and 9.9%, where in 2050 it will be 16.8%. In Latin America and the Caribbean it will increase to 11.3%.

Type 2 diabetes, much more frequent

Type 2 diabetes represents 96% of all diabetes cases.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune problem, in which the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, which reduces insulin production. Type 2 diabetes can develop from diet, body mass, and age.

In 2021, 52% of type 2 diabetes cases were associated with a high body mass index (BMI).

What causes the increase of people with diabetes?

The problem is mainly due to the food industry and lifestyle. For Stephen Lawrence, an expert in primary diabetes care at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, the consumption of high-calorie foods, increasingly common in low-income countries, is the great trigger. “Unfortunately, our genes are not made to deal with them.

There needs to be a combination between the individual and the environment to develop type 2 diabetes: ten years of sedentary life and excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates,” he said.

“When low- and middle-income countries move away from traditional food cultures and toward fast, industrialized foods, more (cases of) diabetes appear,” said Naveed Sattar, an expert in metabolic health at the University of Glasgow, UK. .

Living longer with diabetes

Sattar also pointed out that the biggest driver of the rise in diabetes is actually the fact that there is a better survival rate in people with diabetes, especially in high- and middle-income countries.

“Diabetes becomes more common as we get older and we get better at treating it so people don’t die prematurely,” Sattar told DW.

However, “in low- and high-income countries, all ethnic groups except whites are at increased risk of diabetes. South Asians, for example, have a higher percentage of body fat in the liver compared to white Europeans,” Sattar said.

But “when South Asians move abroad, they get taller and thinner, especially their children. This suggests to me that it is not genetic, but more to do with epigenetics and nutrition,” Sattar said.

For Sattar, diabetes is also a social problem, not just a medical problem. “You have to get people out of poverty and give them a better quality of life. Type 2 diabetes was more common in wealthy people 50 years ago. Now it is more common in people without resources. You have to keep them away from cheaper and highly processed foods,” he said.

Lawrence added that “governments can make decisions about the food industry like they did with anti-smoking and (compulsory) seatbelt laws in cars” to curb the global rise in diabetes.