The projected rise in the number of diabetes sufferers from about 135 million now to almost 300 million by the year 2025 is due to population ageing, unhealthy diets, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Developing countries will bear the brunt of the diabetes epidemic in the 21st century. Up to 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are non-insulin-dependent. Insulin- dependent diabetes develops most frequently in children and adults.
Diabetes is an under-recognized and under-recorded cause of death. Its long term complications include heart disease, predominantly in industrialized countries, kidney failure, blindness, and, particularly in developing countries, foot infections, gangrene and amputation of the limbs. It adversely affects the outcome of pregnancy, negates the protection from heart disease which pre-menopausal women without diabetes experience, and can lead to male impotence.