The number of people with diabetes in any particular country will reflect the population size of that country rather than the relative size of the problem. Prevalence and incidence rates measure the number of diabetes cases per size of the population and give a more specific impression of the significance of diabetes to that particular country.

According to International Diabetes Federation (IDF) 2011 data the top 3 countries in the world for diabetic subjects are China (90 million cases), India (61 million) and the USA (24 million). These countries with very large populations will have to gear up their health services to deal with such a sizeable problem. It does not mean that the relative percentage of their population with diabetes is especially high, it is just that they have large numbers of people and because of that they have large numbers of people with diabetes. Other countries on this list to make up the top ten include Russia (13 million people with diabetes), Brazil (12 million), Japan (11 million), Mexico (10 million), Bangladesh (8 million), Egypt 7 million) and Indonesia (7 million).

These figures do not focus attention on diabetes prevalence i.e. relative to the size of the population. If these are calculated then a different picture emerges. We can see immediately from the same IDF 2011 data for people 20-79 years that the Middle East has huge diabetes prevalence rates. Kuwait has 21% of their population affected, Lebanon 21%, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have 20% and the UAE has 19% diabetes prevalence. These figures suggest something important about the cause of diabetes in these countries.

At the top of the list for diabetes prevalence are some tiny Islands where westernization has outstripped and replaced the traditional way of life. We see this picture right across the globe. Thus, Kiribati has 26% of their population aged 20-79 years with diabetes, Nauru has 21% and Tuvalu 19%.

In the top ten worldwide for diabetes prevalence therefore are many of the Pacific Islands and most countries of the Middle East. The statistics support the concept that there is a genetic susceptibility inherent to the populations of these countries and that it has been a rapid westernization of the culture, and nutrition in particular, which is the actual trigger to expressing this susceptibility. To learn more about diabetes prevalence rates around the world visit the IDF website

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