Diabetes affects more than 366 million people worldwide. Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is an epidemic in the developed world, and both conditions are on the rise in emerging nations. Diabetes research focuses on understanding the mechanisms that drive this complex disease and on developing medicines that can control blood sugar levels while protecting against related risks like weight gain and heart disease.
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body either does not produce insulin (Type 1) or does not produce enough insulin (Type 2). Insulin is necessary to convert sugar and other nutrients into energy. Without insulin, the body cannot use nutrients and cannot regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels properly. Diabetics must use insulin or anti-diabetic drugs to control blood sugar levels throughout their lives.
Only about 10 percent of diabetics suffer from Type 1, in which the body fails to make insulin. About 90 percent of diabetics suffer from Type 2, in which the body gradually loses the ability to use and produce insulin. Type 1 diabetics depend on insulin, while people with Type 2 diabetes use combinations of drugs to reduce blood sugar levels and may or may not need insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is a fast-growing, global epidemic that is further driven by an epidemic in obesity. Obesity increases risk for developing diabetes: more than 80% of Type 2 diabetics are overweight. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than one in 10 of the world's adults (about 500 million) are obese and 1.4 billion are overweight.
People with diabetes face greater risk for a daunting list of life-threatening diseases including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage. The International Diabetes Foundation estimates that 4.6 million deaths worldwide were attributable to diabetes in 2011. WHO expects the number of diabetes-related deaths worldwide to increase by two thirds between 2008 and 2030.
For information and support to manage and live well with diabetes, patients can contact the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.