The prevalence of global diabetes is vastly underestimated, but new testing procedures could help
A new study carried out by Monash Professor of Diabetes, Paul Zimmet, and co-authors from the UK and the US suggests there may be more than 100 million more people with diabetes globally than previously thought.
The prevalence of global diabetes has been seriously underestimated by at least 25 per cent putting the global count at closer to 520 million people, instead of the 415 million figure previously estimated by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in 2015.
The paper suggests that the figures on the prevalence of diabetes could be underestimated due to the inconsistent and sometime inappropriate methods of testing used by organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and IDF. There is also a lack of national data on diabetes in many developing countries that contribute to a black hole in our knowledge.
Professor Zimmet said: "The way the global data on diabetes has been collected has been inconsistent and not of the standard needed for public health planning to address what is now one of the largest chronic disease epidemics in human history.
"There are major and serious gaps in our knowledge of the burden of diabetes, particularly in developing countries which will have significant unforeseen impacts on national health care systems," he said.
The study goes on to recommend a more consistent approach to diabetes testing utilizing an alternative blood glucose test for both fasting glucose and at two hours after a glucose drink test, to provide a more accurate set of data. This could prove to be a marked improvement in the accuracy of diagnosis compared to the traditional fasting glucose test method used by many organizations around the world.
An alternative test, HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin), is also recommended by WHO and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to circumvent the two hour test. The average blood glucose method can serve as a reliable marker to iron out any spikes and anomalies in traditional blood glucose testing methods.
The scale at which the global prevalence of diabetes seems to have been underestimated could have real economic and societal implications, as healthcare providers are required to allocate more and more resources towards the treatment of a disease that already accounts for over 12 per cent of global health expenditure.
Based on a study from Monash University Professor of Diabetes, Paul Zimmet, and co-authors from the UK and the US