In 2019, diabetes caused 1.5m deaths, 48% of which were under the age of 70. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable. There are currently 529m people living with diabetes, which is expected to reach 1.3bn by 2050.
The healthcare sector is working in to parts to combat diabetes - to prevent diabetes and to help those who have it.
The causes of Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that occurs when the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or is unable to effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar - glucose - levels.
There are different types of diabetes and the causes can vary:
Type 1 Diabetes
This is an autoimmune disease which develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The cause behind Type 1 Diabetes involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is still the topic of research.
Type 2 Diabetes
This form of diabetes is associated with lifestyle factors. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Several factors contribute to this:
- Lack of physical activity
- A sedentary lifestyle
- A diet involving large amounts of processed foods, sugar, saturated and trans fats, and low volumes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Having a family history of diabetes increases the risk of developing the condition
- Gestational Diabetes occurs during pregnancy and affects some women who have never had diabetes before. While gestational diabetes usually resolves after childbirth, it increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
How the healthcare sector is combatting Diabetes
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) has revolutionised diabetes management by providing a convenient way to monitor blood sugar levels. CGM devices, which are attached to the arm, stomach or thigh, continuously measure glucose levels through a small sensor placed under the skin. This removes the need for frequent finger pricks to test blood sugar levels. The global market for CGM reached US$6bn in 2021 and is projected to reach US$31bn by 2031.
Apple and Samsung are reportedly working on smartwatches that can monitor blood sugar levels without the need for a sensor under the skin, which presents an even more conventient form of diabetes management.
Huawei’s Watch 4 comes with high blood sugar risk features, but so far has only been announced in China.
However, weight loss jab Mounjaro, which reduces appetite and helps to manage blood glucose, has been rejected by the NHS because the costs may not be justified.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has called for more evidence on Mounjaro.
"Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent in society, so new treatment options are needed to help people with it to control their blood-glucose levels,” said Helen Knight, from NICE.