Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes grow in prevalence

The number people in the world with either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes has more than doubled over the last three decades, according to a new paper from an international group of researchers.

There are now 347 million individuals worldwide with diabetes, according to the research, which was published in the journal The Lancet. That number was just 153 million in 1980. The estimate is considerably higher than other recent, less rigorous approximations.

The team, which was made up of researchers from Imperial College London, the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization, estimated that up to 70 percent of the increase could be blamed on population growth and the fact that there are more seniors citizens in most countries today. However, at least 30 percent of the expansion is directly attributable to a rising prevalence of the disease.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data collected from more than 2.7 million people from around the world. They then used statistical modeling methods to extrapolate the information for the entire world population.

The high figure generated by the analysis surprised the researchers. They said that their findings underscore the point that more needs to be done to fight the condition, particularly type 2 diabetes, which is by far the most common form of the disease. Unlike type 1 diabetes, it is entirely preventable.

"Unless we develop better programs for detecting people with elevated blood sugar and helping them to improve their diet and physical activity and control their weight, diabetes will inevitably continue to impose a major burden on health systems around the world," said Dr. Goodarz Danaei, the Harvard School of Public Health researcher who participated in the study.

The team added that unlike cholesterol and blood sugar problems, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are among the few major health conditions that are actually becoming more common.