(NaturalNews) Diabetes and the medical costs attached thereto
have skyrocketed across the world, according to the largest study ever conducted to measure global diabetes levels. The type 2 diabetes epidemic in the United States is largely fueled by the introduction of processed foods into the food supply. While these food manufacturers have profited handsomely from their products, they have done virtually nothing to help pay for the healthcare costs attached to the epidemic they helped create.
Diabetes takes the lives of roughly 3.7 million people a year. The global cost of treating diabetes is now $827 billion per year. Despite public awareness of the problem, diabetes rates have consistently increased over the decades, and are expected to continue to grow in developing countries.
The recent study was headed by researchers from Imperial College London, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and almost 500 other scientists around the world. Together, they collected information from 4.4 million adults worldwide. They also developed interactive maps and other illustrations that reflect the data of each country, and how they weigh against each other.
The authors of the study, which was published in the journal The Lancet, contrasted diabetes levels among men and women from 1980 to 2014. Diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to effectively regulate sugar levels in the blood, which increases the risk for heart and kidney disease, blurred vision and amputations.
The treatment for diabetes is contingent upon the severity of the case. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin and a diabetic diet, whereas type 2 diabetes is treated with weight loss, exercise and a type 2 diabetic diet. Although type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be mitigated with a well-balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
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The rise of diabetes
The researchers modified their results to account for diabetes becoming more common with age, and for countries with older populations. Based upon these age-adjusted figures, the researchers discovered that in the last 35 years, diabetes levels among men have more than doubled across the globe, from 4.3 percent in 1980 to 9 percent in 2014. In addition, diabetes among women has increased from 5 percent in 1980 to 7.9 percent in 2014. On the whole, the global rate of diabetes has almost quadrupled, from 108 million adults in 1980, to 422 million adults in 2014, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
The study follows in the footsteps of previous research by the same Wellcome Trust-funded team that reviewed global obesity levels, which was published in The Lancet last week. In the recent study, the team showed that diabetes levels were lowest in 2014 in northwestern Europe, where approximately 4 percent of women and 6 percent of men have diabetes. On the other side of the table, diabetes levels were highest in Polynesia and Micronesia, where more than one out of five adults have the disease.
Although experts have attributed to rise of diabetes in Europe to obesity and an aging population, the study revealed that diabetes is becoming a growing problem in low and middle-income countries. In the Middle East, for instance, diabetes rates have swelled from 5.8 percent in 1980 to 13.7 percent in 2014, reports Newsweek. The researchers believe sedentary lifestyles have contributed to the rise of diabetes in these countries.
“What’s happening in the low and the middle-income countries quite quickly is very rapid urbanization,” according Etienne Krug, director of the WHO Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention. “People who used to work in the fields doing quite hard physical work, had access to vegetables and fruit very cheaply and did most of their transportation by walking or bicycle, are now living in cities where the type of work they do, the type of transportation modes they use and the type of food they eat is very different,” he added.
The price of diabetes
The study did not distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes; however, at least 85 to 90 percent of the diabetes cases were type 2 diabetes. In addition to reviewing global diabetes levels, the authors of the study calculated the yearly cost of treating and managing the illness. The team found that the total global cost of diabetes was a whopping $827 billion per year. The largest costs came from China at $170 billion per year, followed by the U.S. at $105 billion per year and India at $73 billion per year. The researchers noted that the calculation did not incorporate the number of workdays lost because of diabetes, which would have made these figures even higher.
According to Professor Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, “This is the first time we have had such a complete global picture about diabetes—and the data reveals the disease has reached levels that can bankrupt some countries’ health systems. The enormous cost of this disease—to both governments and individuals—could otherwise go towards life essentials such as food and education.”
Holding manufacturers accountable
The results of the study bear testimony to the influence a city lifestyle has on disease, including a lack of space for physical activity, economic inequality and a plethora of highly processed foods. Meanwhile, the food companies that helped launch this epidemic have done nothing to help pay for medical care costs. Whenever a product causes harm or injury to a mass population, it’s only fair that the manufacturers of that product help pay for the price of the burden. And yet, when it comes to the $827 billion spent on treating diabetes each year, the junk food industry contributes practically nothing.
Of course, food manufacturers can’t bear all the responsibility. We are responsible for what we choose to put into our bodies. However, it’s important to bear in mind that uninformed consumers often purchase items they otherwise wouldn’t buy, because food producers intentionally conceal information about their products. They don’t want the public to know where or how their food is made. Furthermore, people in impoverished countries often resort to junk food, not because they want to, but because they cannot afford the cost of healthy food.
“We need financially accessible and effective health systems that can highlight those at high risk of diabetes or at pre-diabetes stage. Healthcare staff can then deliver medication and lifestyle advice to delay or even prevent the onset of the condition, as has been done in some countries in western Europe,” Ezzati concluded.
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