Posted: December 19, 2015

Diabetes around the World

December 1-4, 2015, I attended the International Diabetes Federation Conference in Vancouver, where I hosted a booth with the National Aboriginal Diabetes Association and Urban Walking Poles. The conference was a chance for us to learn more about the latest innovations in diabetes, and talk to colleagues from around the world.

I met dietitians from Mongolia and South America; nurses and endocrinologists from Canada, the Philippines and the Caribbean, India and Africa; and pharmacists and other health care professionals from Australia, Saudi Arabia and Guyana. It was a stark reminder of the global threat of type 2 diabetes.

Based on total world population, nearly 80% of the people with diabetes now live in low income to middle income countries, with China, India and Bangladesh having the largest number of adults with diabetes in the world. In these countries overconsumption and inactivity are rising. Diabetes quickly follows the new and growing middle class. Some of the countries that have the highest prevalence of diabetes includes rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and poorer countries such as Belize. If you are curious about the prevalence in other countries, check out this link where the authors have compiled the data from the Sixth Edition of the International Diabetes Federation Atlas of Diabetes. Canada is rated 97th and USA is 74th for prevalence.

This really speaks to the global emergency of diabetes.

There are many factors that are contributing to this rise in diabetes. But no matter how you slice it, the biggest factor, is the way we now live.

  • We sit for long hours every day, often in front of screens, at home and work. Where we used to walk or bicycle, we now get around by motorized moped, car, truck or transit. This technology has reached around the globe and has replaced hours of physical activity every day.
  • We drink juice, soft drinks and other sugared drinks instead of water when we are thirsty. Even in remote villages of Africa bottled pop is a common drink.
  • We eat at home less and instead we eat more prepared and restaurant food – typically larger higher fat portions washed down with super-sized sugar beverages. Sadly, in spite of more food, we may be enjoying food, family and friends less.

Solutions start with the individual and with society. For individuals, if we each went for a half hour walk every day, we would reduce the prevalence of diabetes. Imagine if the world cut out all soft drinks. Well okay, imagine if we only cut out 10 ounces of pop each day from our diet, the effect would be over 3,500 calories less per month. As a society, we need to look at school and work environments that support and encourage healthy eating and exercise. Multiply these health changes over months and years and we would be healthier as individuals and as nations. In spite of the overwhelming statistics, we need to take one step at a time, starting today.

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The suggestions and information in my blog are based on a thorough assessment of all the latest research and information. Reasonable steps have been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented. However, this blog is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Only your doctor can diagnose and treat a medical problem. Always consult your medical practitioner.