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Experts: Testing helps curb diabetes 'epidemic'

Category: Diabetes

A report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has revealed that individuals worldwide are developing diabetes at a faster rate than experts initially thought.

In 1985, doctors believed that 30 million people in the world had the disease, and in 2000, the consensus figure rose to more than 150 million. According to IDF data, today, 285 million people in the world have the disease, with high proportions occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Professor Jean Cluade Mbanya, president of the International Diabetes Federation commented, "The data from the latest edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas show that the epidemic is out of control. We are losing ground in the struggle to contain diabetes. No country is immune and no country is fully equipped to repel this common enemy."

According to IDF, type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable autoimmune disease which causes the body to destroy its insulin-producing cells; people with this disorder require daily insulin injections for survival.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 21 million children and adults in the U.S. or 7 percent of the population have diabetes today. Doctors recommend a fasting plasma glucose test or a casual plasma glucose test for diabetes screening - a measure which allows for early detection and efficient treatment of the disorder.

Economic risks to developing countries

Officials at the IDF assert that developing diagnostic testing and treatments for diabetes has become an economic concern, especially in low- and middle-income countries. According to reports, more than 80 percent of the world's spending on diabetes occurs within the planet's richest countries, while only 30 percent of people with diabetes live in those countries.

The agency has predicted that in 2010, diabetes will cost the world economy more than $376 billion - 11.6 percent of the total world healthcare expenditures. IDF further forecasts costs exceeding $490 billion by 2030.

"The world needs to invest in integrated health systems that can diagnose, treat, manage and prevent diabetes," said Professor Nigel Unwin, IDF Diabetes Atlas research leader. He warns that if governments fail to promote preventative practices outside the formal health sector, "diabetes will overwhelm health systems and hinder economic growth.

Doctors recommend that the governments of at-risk countries promote healthier diets and physical activity to reduce obesity and consequently, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To date, U.S. spending on diabetes research, which includes diabetes testing as a successful preventative measure, constitutes 52.7 percent of global diabetes expenditures. By comparison, India - the nation with the largest population of diabetes sufferers, spends about 1 percent of the global total.

Diabetes: risks and treatments

Recent research has given cause for diabetes testing for patients who wish to take proactive treatment methods and avoid long-term symptoms.

According to HealthDay News, a study published in the October issue of Diabetes Care revealed that female patients with the insulin deficiency had a 26 percent greater chance of developing atrial fibrillation.

Although further research has not begun, the study's authors theorize that diabetes affects the cardiac autonomic nerves in a way similar to how the disease causes damage to peripheral nerves, causing the heavily studied condition peripheral neuropathy.

As scientist examine treatment options, one research team determined that a molecule found in grapes called resveratrol, lessened the severity of diabetes when delivered orally to mice. The researchers, who determined that the grape component affected the way the brain regulated insulin levels, believe that similar oral medications which target the brain may be the frontier in diabetes treatment.

As more information and new treatments become available, the International Diabetes Federation insists that more than 60 percent of type 2 diabetes could be prevented.

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