The Big Diabetes Lie

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Diabetes mellitus (DM) is set to become one of the world's biggest health problems owing to the projected increase in new cases.

The word diabetes means 'to run through' or 'a siphon' in Greek and the condition has been recognized since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Mellitus (from the Latin and Greek roots for 'honey') was later added to the name of this disorder when it became appreciated that diabetic urine tasted sweet.

The incidence of type 1 diabetes differs enormously between populations (in England and Wales the incidence rate is between 15 and 19 cases per 100 000 population per year). There seems to be a slightly higher risk for boys than for girls, at least in high-risk populations. There are peaks of incidence before school age and around puberty with the diagnosis being made more frequently in winter months. An epidemic of type 2 DM is occurring throughout the world, particularly affecting developing countries and migrants from these countries to industrialized societies. Highest prevalence rates are found in some native American tribes, notably the Pima Indians in Arizona (over 50%) and South Pacific groups. Age-standardized prevalence in the UK is 1-2% for the white population, 11% for those of Indian origin and 9% for those of African-Caribbean origin. Rates for the USA are 12-20% for migrant Hispanic groups, 9% for male black African-Americans, 13% for female black African-Americans and 3-8% for non-Hispanic white Americans.

The personal and public health costs of diabetes are high. It has been estimated that diabetes accounts for 2.8% of all hospital admissions in some countries.

The cost of diabetes to society in a developed country may be up to 4.5% of the total health-care costs.

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