Diabetes battle "being lost" as cases hit record 382 mln


* Cases expected to increase 55 pct to 592 mln by 2035

* Vast majority type 2 diabetes, linked to obesity

* Country with most diabetics overall is China

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The world is losing the battleagainst diabetes as the number of people estimated to be livingwith the disease soars to a new record of 382 million this year,medical experts said on Thursday.

The vast majority have type 2 diabetes - the kind linked toobesity and lack of exercise - and the epidemic is spreading asmore people in the developing world adopt Western, urbanlifestyles.

The latest estimate from the International DiabetesFederation is equivalent to a global prevalence rate of 8.4percent of the adult population and compares to 371 millioncases in 2012.

By 2035, the organisation predicts the number of cases willhave soared by 55 percent to 592 million.

"The battle to protect people from diabetes and itsdisabling, life-threatening complications is being lost," thefederation said in the sixth edition of its Diabetes Atlas,noting that deaths from the disease were now running at 5.1million a year or one every six seconds.

People with diabetes have inadequate blood sugar control,which can lead to a range of dangerous complications, includingdamage to the eyes, kidneys and heart. If left untreated, it canresult in premature death.

"Year after year, the figures seem to be getting worse,"said David Whiting, an epidemiologist and public healthspecialist at the federation. "All around the world we areseeing increasing numbers of people developing diabetes."

He said that a strategy involving all parts of society wasneeded to improve diets and promote healthier lifestyles.

The federation calculates diabetes already accounts forannual healthcare spending of $548 billion and this is likely torise to $627 billion by 2035.

Worryingly, an estimated 175 million of diabetes cases areas yet undiagnosed, so a huge number of people are progressingtowards complications unawares. Most of them live in low- andmiddle-income countries with far less access to medical carethan in the United States and Europe.

The country with the most diabetics overall is China, wherethe case load is expected to rise to 142.7 million in 2035 from98.4 million at present.

But the highest prevalence rates are to be found in theWestern Pacific, where more than a third of adults in Tokelau,Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are already living with thedisease.

Pharmaceutical companies have developed a range of medicinesover the years to counter diabetes but many patients stillstruggle to control their condition adequately, leading to acontinuing hunt for improved treatments.

Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly are all major suppliers of insulin and other diabetestherapies.

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