With six people dying every minute, UN health agency declares war on diabetes

Healthy eating can help to prevent diabetes

5 May 2004 – With six people dying every minute from diabetes-related illnesses, the United Nations health agency today launched a major preventive campaign for low- and middle-income countries and communities based on simple lifestyle adjustments such as a healthy diet and physical activity, often combined with medication.

“Diabetes is a major threat to global public health that is rapidly getting worse and the biggest impact is on adults of working age in developing countries,” World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant-Director General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health Catherine Le Galès-Camus said.

“In most developing countries at least one in 10 deaths in adults aged 35 to 64 is attributable to diabetes, and in some the figure is as high as one in five,” she added at the launching of “Diabetes Action Now,” a joint programme of WHO and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), a Brussels-based non-governmental organization.

Diabetes, a chronic disease caused by inherited and/or acquired deficiency in production of insulin, has become one of the major causes of premature illness and death in most countries, mainly through the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Some 3.2 million deaths can be attributed to it each year according to new WHO/IDF figures – three times higher than previous calculations.

“Diabetes can be effectively managed and the risk of developing complications reduced substantially,” IDF President Pierre Lefèbvre said. “Simple lifestyle adjustments such as a healthy diet and physical activity, often combined with medication, have been shown to be effective in promoting a full and healthy life with diabetes.

“In many cases, type 2 diabetes – accounting for over 90 per cent of all cases of diabetes – can be prevented through lifestyle interventions alone,” he added.

Diabetes is dramatically rising all over the world. In 2000, there were 171 million affected people worldwide, and by 2030 this figure is expected to more than double to 366 million.

Most of the increase will occur as a result of a 150 per cent rise in developing countries. For example, in India there were approximately 32 million people with diabetes in 2000, but by 2030 this number is expected to increase to almost 80 million.

Listen to UN Radio report

Related Stories