A new study reveals there could be more than 100 million people with diabetes worldwide than previously estimated by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).
This research, which was led by Monash University, finds that the global prevalence of diabetes has been underestimated by at least 25 per cent.
In 2015, the IDF estimated that the number of people worldwide was 415 million. Scientists from the UK, the US and Australia believe this figure could actually be as high as 520 million.
Paul Zimmet, Monash Professor of Public Health and Diabetes, believes this discrepancy is most likely due to inconsistent and inappropriate methods and testing for evaluating diabetes mortality and prevalence.
“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,” said Zimmet.
One of the inconsistencies Zimmet refers to includes the World Health Organization advocating the blood glucose test to diagnose diabetes, but several countries do not include the additional test at two hours following a glucose drink.
“While the WHO recommends a blood glucose test – both fasting and at two hours after a glucose drink – only the fasting glucose is used in many instances, resulting in an underestimate of at least 25 per cent in the number of new cases of diabetes,” Zimmet added.
In their paper, published in Nature Reviews, Zimmet and colleagues recommend an alternative blood glucose test for both fasting and at two hours following a glucose drink. They believe this test could provide a more accurate set of data.
The WHO and American Diabetes Association are now recommending an HbA1c test as an alternative diagnostic option, with research currently underway to assess its efficacy.
Additionally, the researchers report that the effect of diabetes complications, such as coronary heart disease, amputation and stroke, have been underestimated.
Diabetes Australia’s CEO, Associate Professor Greg Johnso, said: “Worryingly, surveys show that the general public underestimates the seriousness of diabetes and most people aren’t aware of the connection between diabetes and amputations.”
Another factor that could have affected these figures includes a lack of national data in many countries – particularly developing countries.

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