Diabetes rates double worldwide

Rates of diabetes have nearly tripled in the U.S., and more than doubled worldwide since 1980, according to a report this week in the British journal Lancet. More than 347 million patients have diabetes globally, and nearly 25 million in the U.S.

The new rates are 25 percent higher than previous estimates reported in 2009, in part because the new study provides a more comprehensive calculation of global prevalence, the Wall Street Journal reports. And the U.S. has one of the fastest growing diabetes rates, having risen from one of the lowest diabetes rates in the world in 1980 to ranking in the top 30 percent of countries worldwide by 2008, reports MedPage Today. Rates have grown faster for men than for women in the U.S. Men's rates rose to 12.5 percent in 2008, compared to 8.3 percent in 1980, while women's rates rose to 9.5 percent in 2008, compared to 5 percent in 1980.

Costs associated with diabetes care are, in turn, expected to mushroom as well in coming years, having already risen to $174 million in the U.S. alone in 2007, according to the latest data from the American Diabetes Association. Add 25 percent to that number, and U.S. costs for diabetes care could already be higher than $215 million.

The study muddied the waters concerning the causes of the worldwide rise in diabetes. Previous studies have assumed, as it has in the U.S., that increased economic success lead to a diet higher in refined carbohydrates and a more sedentary lifestyle, both of which contribute to development of type 2 diabetes. And many countries with slower economic growth had slower increases in diabetes, according to the study.

The new study, however, shows that isn't 100 percent true, globally. For example, China's recent economic improvements haven't led to a corresponding increase in diabetes. And India has had the lowest increase in average body mass index--a key indicator for obesity--but the sixth largest rise in diabetes rates.

To learn more:
- get more details from the Wall Street Journal
- read the Lancet study
- check out the MedPage Today story