Close to 90 million American people suffer from prediabetes, and 70% of those shall sooner or later develop Type 2 diabetes… And while this pandemic is undoubtedly linked to modern Western lifestyle habits, it nevertheless affects most countries nowadays. Indeed, if nothing changes, within 20 years Type 2 diabetes will most certainly rank first among human diseases (according to the WHO prospective studies, our planet might host some 300 million diabetics in 2025).
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that the prevalence of this metabolic disease should rise by 55% from now to 2025 in developed countries as well as in newly emerging economies such as India, China or the Gulf States.
From a sweet tooth to Type 2 diabetes: a brief reminder
Whenever we eat a high-GI food, our blood glucose level surges, which triggers the release of insulin by the pancreas in order to bring our glycemia (blood glucose concentration) back to a normal level. If we eat too much sugary foods, these regulating mechanisms are overworked, they become dulled, and we develop a condition called impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). The liver, the muscles, the adipocytes and all the cells involved in the absorption of glucose from the blood gradually develop a resistance to insulin, leading to insulin resistance. As a result, the body must produce larger quantities of insulin to maintain normal levels of glucose in the blood. At this point, one reaches prediabetes, which is an intermediate state between normal glucose regulation and established Type 2 diabetes. Over time, the overworked insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas (islets of Langerhans) tire out and are subject to degeneration, and then destruction. When the pancreas is no longer able to counterbalance the impaired insulin sensitivity of the cells, Type 2 diabetes develops.
More overweight people means more Type 2 diabetes
Overeating, especially high-GI foods – but who ever binged on steamed broccoli? –, almost inevitably leads to prediabetes. And prediabetes is the last step before Type 2 diabetes. While for normal subjects the risk of developing this type of diabetes is 0.7% per year, it rises to 5 to 10% per year when you are prediabetic … and to a near-certainty if you do not change your diet and lifestyle habits.
Over 50% (and up to 66% according to some sources) of the human population is overweight or obese, the obesity rate ranging from 7% in Asia to 36% in Canada (see “The Overweight and Obesity Pandemic”). The most alarming progress rates are found in newly emerging countries, the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). For instance, one quarter of the Chinese population is overweight, with an estimate 90 million obese people; in Mexico, obesity affects 30% of the population and 70% of adults are overweight.
For the first time in history, overweight people outrank starving people (1.6 billion overweight adults, of which 500 million are clinically obese, and ‘only’ one billion undernourished ones). As a result, overweight and obesity are also now responsible for more deaths worldwide than underweight…
Type 2 diabetes is on the rise all around the world
According to the compound results of surveys conducted between 1980 and 2008 on over 2.7 million people in 199 countries, the prevalence of type II diabetes in 2008 was 9.8% in men and 9.2% for women, up from respectively 8.3% and 7.5% in 1980. Apart from this global upwards trend, a more dramatic increase may be noted in Oceania (where 15.5% of men and 15.9% women develop Type 2 diabetes) due to the brutal transition, particularly among Maori people, from a fish- and vegetables-rich diet to a Western-style diet. South America and Central America, the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East also display an above average increase rate. Type 2 diabetes also appears in increasingly young people, including under-15-year-olds, among which its annual growth rate is 3%.