Lewis Diuguid

Diabetes has become a growing global health concern

According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 86 million Americans age 20 and older have pre-diabetes. A World Health Organization report released Wednesday found that since 1980 diabetes cases worldwide have grown from 108 million to 422 million in 2014.
According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 86 million Americans age 20 and older have pre-diabetes. A World Health Organization report released Wednesday found that since 1980 diabetes cases worldwide have grown from 108 million to 422 million in 2014. TNS

America appears to have sold the rest of the world on its combo bad habits of inactivity, smoking, eating too much and the wrong kinds of food.

It has resulted in a quadrupling of cases of diabetes since 1980, the World Health Organization reports. The number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million 36 years ago to 422 million in 2014.

The global prevalence of diabetes among people over 18 years of age has risen from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014. The report lists countries of the world from A to Z and includes the number of deaths caused by diabetes and risk factors such as being overweight and physical inactivity.

In Vietnam, for example, 4.9 percent of the people have diabetes, 20.4 percent are overweight, 3.5 percent are obese and 23 .6 percent are physically inactive.

In the United States, 9.1 percent of the population has diabetes. A whopping 69.6 percent of Americans are overweight, 35 percent of us are obese and 35 percent are physically inactive. The numbers explain why the cases of diabetes are climbing worldwide.

Accompanying the startling jump are dire consequences for people suffering from the chronic disease. Diabetes results when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or the body is unable to effectively use the insulin the pancreas produces.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation, the World Health Organization report notes. Diabetes claimed 1.5 million lives in 2012, and an additional 2.2 million deaths were attributed to high blood glucose. Nearly half the deaths connected to high blood glucose occurred before age 70.

“WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030,” the first “WHO Global Report on Diabetes” says. “Diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication, and regular screening and treatment for complications.”

The onset of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed through people having a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use.

Type 1 diabetes is totally different. It had been called insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset diabetes. It is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily use of insulin. Neither the cause, cure nor prevention of type 1 diabetes is known.

“Type 2 diabetes comprises the majority of people with diabetes around the world and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity,” the report said. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults. But it is now occurring more in children.

The American Diabetes Association looks at the increase in sugar in diets as a possible link. One report said that in 1776 Americans consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per person each year. That climbed to 20 pounds by 1850 and 120 pounds by 1994.

“The food industry has used sugar as a major sweetener for delivery for increasing amounts of beverages and food over the past half-century,” the report said. “The result has been that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages rose by a startling 38.5 gallons per person between 1950 and 2000 (10.8 gallons per person in 1950 to 49.3 gallons per person in 2000).”

That association report also said “of 75 countries, soft drink intake increased globally from 9.5 gallons per capita per year in 1997 to 11.4 gallons in 2010. A 1 percent rise in soft drink consumption was associated with an additional 48 overweight adults per 100 people, 2.3 obese adults per 100, and 0.3 adults with diabetes per 100.”

That is disturbing.

The World Health Organization report says: “Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Adults with diabetes have a two- to three-fold increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.”

Imagine children with diabetes facing those kinds of health problems.

Combined with reduced blood flow, the disease can cause result in neuropathy, or nerve damage, in the feet. That increases the likelihood of foot ulcers, infection and the eventual need for limb amputation. Another scary concern is diabetic retinopathy, a cause of blindness. It’s shocking that 2.6 percent of global blindness now can be attributed to diabetes, which also is a leading cause of kidney failure.

People worldwide should be checked regularly for diabetes. “People with type 1 diabetes require insulin, people with type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medication, but may also require insulin,” the WHO report says.

The American Diabetes Association report’s recommendations include people drinking water over sweetened beverages and reducing their average intake of sugar to the levels seen in 1977 to 1978.

It sounds good, health-wise, but the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim.

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