Unhealthy lifestyles are fuelling a global health crisis, with men, women and children of all ages in every country being affected.
Failing to control blood sugar levels can have devastating consequences.
The metabolic disorder triples the risk of a heart attack and leaves patients 20 times more likely to undergo a leg amputation.
It can also lead to stroke, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and complications during pregnancy.
Lead author Dr. Liane Ong, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said: “The rapid rate at which diabetes is growing is not only alarming but also challenging for every health system in the world, especially given how the disease also increases the risk for ischaemic heart disease and stroke.”
Currently, more than half a billion people have diabetes, almost all (96%) the type 2 form linked to obesity.
That is a fivefold rise since 1980 when there were around 108 million living with the condition.
It is now one of the top ten killers. High BMI (body mass index) was identified as the main risk factor – accounting for over half (52%) of death and disability.
Next came poor diet, environmental and occupational risks, smoking, low physical activity and alcohol use.
Fine particles from air pollution can trigger the condition by getting into the bloodstream.
Dr. Ong said: “While the general public might believe type 2 diabetes is simply associated with obesity, lack of exercise, and a poor diet, preventing and controlling it is quite complex due to a number of factors.
“That includes someone’s genetics, as well as logistical, social, and financial barriers within a country’s structural system, especially in low and middle income countries.”
As the world’s waistlines have ballooned, with one in three now registering as overweight, so too has the number of diabetes cases.
An analysis of the GBD (Global Burden of Disease) study found prevalence is more than six percent.
Data covered 204 countries and territories by age and sex between 1990 and 2021, enabling the international team to calculate rates up to 2050.
Most vulnerable are over 65s with more than one in five in every region developing the condition, rising to nearly a quarter among 75 to 79-year-olds.
Co-author Dr. Lauryn Stafford, also from Washington, said: “Some people might be quick to focus on one or a few risk factors, but that approach doesn’t take into account the conditions in which people are born and live that create disparities worldwide.
“Those inequities ultimately impact people’s access to screening and treatment and the availability of health services. That is precisely why we need a more complete picture of how diabetes has been impacting populations at a granular level.”
Around five million people in the UK have diabetes – with 90 percent of cases the type 2 form. Obesity raises the risk sixfold. It affects more than 34 million in the US.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Asad Ali