CASE. Diabetes, evil of the 21st century: the number of patients will double by 2050 in the world

Home CASE. Diabetes, evil of the 21st century: the number of patients will double by 2050 in the world
Written by Doug Hampton

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The number of people living with diabetes worldwide is expected to double by 2050, according to the latest models published in the scientific journal The Lancet. Researchers predict that more than 1.3 billion people could suffer from the disease in 30 years, compared to 529 million in 2021. A meteoric and worrying progression.

The predictions of the early 2000s, already alarmist, have been largely exceeded. The number of people with diabetes is increasing dramatically worldwide. They were just over 100 million in 1980, 422 million in 2014, 529 million in 2021. And their number should reach 1.3 billion in 2050, according to models by researchers from the Global burden of disease published in the scientific journal The Lancet . These scientists speak of “the defining disease of the 21st century”. “The world has failed to understand the social nature of diabetes and has underestimated its true scale and the threat it poses,” they write.

The progression of the disease is worrying because it is a chronic, non-communicable condition, which can lead to many complications, including “serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves”, summarizes the World Health Organization (WHO). The institution, which estimated the number of deaths due to diabetes in the world at 1.5 million in 2019, has since published its Global Pact against this disease, aimed at improving its prevention and management on an international scale. Because according to, this time, the European Center for the Study of Diabetes (Ceed), a person dies of the disease every 6 seconds in the world.

96% of cases are preventable

Diabetes is characterized by a prolonged increase in blood glucose levels. It affects men more than women and there are several types. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that results in the destruction of cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, the only one capable of lowering blood sugar. Since the discovery of therapeutic insulin a century ago, we have been able to counter the effects of this diabetes. Type 2, which mainly affects adults over 40, results from the body’s poor use of insulin. It is largely the result of being overweight and a sedentary lifestyle. Still other forms of diabetes are linked to pregnancy, pancreatic diseases or the use of certain treatments, such as corticosteroids. Unlike others, type 2 diabetes is preventable. However, in 2021, it is estimated that 96% of cases were of this type. To guard against this, it is therefore advisable to lose weight, practice physical activity and be detected early in order to guarantee better care.

3.5 million diabetics in France

Today, the prevalence of diabetes is 6.1% of the world’s population. This rate was in 2020 at 5.3% in France, where 3.5 million patients were under treatment, according to figures from Public Health France. Recent therapeutic and technological innovations have optimized the prognosis of the complications caused by the disease and considerably improved the quality of life of patients. Care and medicines that are fully reimbursed by social security in our country, which is not always the case elsewhere in the world. This lack of care concerns precisely the areas which should be the most impacted by the strong progression of the disease: Oceania, North Africa or the Middle East, where the prevalence rates could exceed 20% by 2050.

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