Over the last 50 yr, changes in lifestyle have led to a dramatic increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in virtually every society around the world. Reductions in physical activity, increases in dietary intake, and the aging of the population are key factors in bringing about this rapid change. The westernization of diet and of other aspects of lifestyle in developing countries has uncovered major genetic differences in the susceptibility of different ethnic groups to type 2 diabetes. This is most readily apparent in Pacific islanders and indigenous populations in North America and Australasia, among whom type 2 diabetes has gone from being almost unheard of 100 yr ago, to affecting up to 30% of the adult population today. As the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has increased, the age of disease onset has also decreased. The traditional paradigm of type 1 diabetes affecting children or young adults and type 2 diabetes affecting the middle-aged and elderly is starting to change. The increasing numbers of young adults, and even children, who are presenting with type 2 diabetes is blurring the distinction between the 2 types of diabetes and heralds a much longer time for people with type 2 diabetes to develop debilitating complications.

This chapter will describe the epidemiology of type 2 diabetes, including the differing patterns of disease prevalence in different populations, and the main modifiable risk factors that have been identified for type 2 diabetes.

From: Contemporary Endocrinology: Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Evidence-Based Approach to Practical Management Edited by: M. N. Feinglos and M. A. Bethel © Humana Press, Totowa, NJ

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