Obesity and diabetes: a global burden

01-08-2013 | Foresight | Giorgia Valsesia

Changing lifestyles and rising obesity
Booming economic growth, rising per capita income and urbanization have led to rapidly changing lifestyles in emerging markets. As individuals move from rural areas to urban centers, they tend to become more sedentary and their eating habits shift from traditional to Western-style diets, which are rich in animal protein and fat and contain higher levels of sugar and salt. Thus, obesity and overweight prevalence rates are rising drastically in these countries. In Brazil, for example, overweight and obesity levels are at 52 %, comparable to those in Germany.1 In China, obesity prevalence has increased dramatically in the last few years, and if current trends remain, 141 million Chinese will be obese in 2030.2

Changing lifestyles and rising obesity

Obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, are also reaching epidemic proportions in several emerging countries. In 2012 there were 371 million diabetes patients worldwide, and this figure is estimated to reach 552 million by 2030.3 The most significant growth will take place in developing economies, as 80 % of persons with diabetes live in low and middle income countries.4 High prevalence of diabetes among Asian populations is also linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes at a younger age and at a much lower weight than in other countries, as shown by several studies.5

More alarming still, a large percentage of people suffering from diabetes in developing countries - 45-58 % in Latin America, Middle East and Southeast Asia, and more than 80 % in Africa - remain undiagnosed.6 If left untreated, diabetes can lead to a number of severe conditions that affect the heart, eyes, nerves, blood vessels, and kidneys. In fact, 20-40 % of diabetes patients develop diabetic renal disease, and if their condition progresses further, they will require dialysis several times a week. Thus, the number of dialysis patients in these regions is also expected to grow at a faster pace than in developed countries.

Rising obesity rates, diabetes and related chronic diseases are straining healthcare budgets. Several industries are well-positioned to offer solutions to this public health challenge. On the prevention side, the food industry is already contributing by developing and promoting healthier foods and ingredients, while athletic companies are highlighting the importance of regular physical activity. When it comes to treatment, healthcare companies such as Novo Nordisk and Sanofi provide a range of innovative diabetes treatments, and dialysis services providers such as Fresenius Medical Care and DaVita Healthcare Partners provide care for the growing number of patients that have developed renal disease.

"Companies that provide a range of diabetes-related treatments help tackle a major public health challenge by improving patient outcomes and quality of life, while benefiting from growing global demand."

1. World Health Organization
2. International Journal of Obesity, 2008; 32: 1431-1437
3, 4, 6 IDF Diabetes Atlas, 2012
5. JAMA 2009; 301: 2129–2140, Lancet 2006;368: 1681–1688, Diabetes Care 2011; 34: 1249-1257

giorgia-valsesiaGiorgia Valsesia
Research Analyst
RobecoSAM Sustainable
Healthy Living Strategy