Experts fear COVID-19 is supporting a rise in diabetes

2021 marks 100 years since the discovery of insulin, a game-changing drug in the fight against diabetes.

Despite centuries of advancements in treatment, education and prevention, World Diabetes Day 2021 still follows grim statistics. One in 10 adults in the world – some 537 million – is currently living with diabetes, according to figures recently released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

By 2024, the IDF predicts that the number of people with diabetes is expected to increase to one in eight adults.

IDF President, Dr Andrew Boulton, told CNN: “As the world marks the centennial anniversary of the discovery of insulin, I wish we could say that we have stopped the rising tide of diabetes. Street”. “Instead, diabetes is now an unprecedented pandemic.”

To date, almost 7 million adults have died worldwide IDF estimates it’s due to diabetes or its complications – that’s more than 1 in 10 deaths globally from any cause.

That doesn’t take into account the lives lost to the new coronavirus, which is particularly deadly for people with diabetes. A study published in February found that having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes triples the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

“And if you want another surprise Statistically, up to 40% of people who die in the US from COVID-19 have diabetes,” said Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association.

Boulton, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of Manchester in the UK, said the pandemic has also affected how well people have controlled their diabetes over the past year and a half.

“I fear we will see a tsunami in the next two years of diabetes and its complications because people have missed their screening appointments due to fear of contracting COVID- 19.


With numbers so dire, experts fear that COVID-19 could contribute to an even bigger problem.

“It’s possible that many people develop diabetes because of COVID,” Gabbay told CNN.

Boulton echoed that concern: “There could be a specific Covid-induced diabetes, although there is some debate about that at the moment.”

A global analysis published in 2020 found that up to 14% of people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 later developed diabetes. Another review published this October found examples of new-onset Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes in infants, children and adults infected with COVID-19.

“Whether new-onset diabetes is likely to be permanent, as long-term follow-up of these patients is limited,” the study said.

Chances are that COVID-19 is not the culprit. Gabbay said blood sugar abnormalities can be triggered by the stress of infection and the steroids used to fight COVID-19 inflammation.

According to the American Medical Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another explanation is that the person may already have prediabetes – about 88 million Americans currently have it. The organizations have partnered with the Ad Council to create a new public service campaign: “Do I have prediabetes?”

People can also have diabetes that has not been diagnosed before. The IDF estimates that of the 537 million adults living with diabetes around the world, nearly half (44.7%) remain undiagnosed.

But there is also evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can bind to ACE2 receptors in the islet cells of the pancreas – the body’s insulin-producing organ, Boulton and Gabbay told CNN.

“The virus attacks those cells in the pancreas and interferes with their insulin production, so that could be a different mechanism,” Gabbay said. “And those who are first diagnosed with diabetes in the hospital are, through whatever mechanism, sadly getting worse.”


Reversing the rising tide of diabetes cases requires early recognition. Treating type 2 diabetes during prediabetes is preferable, as that is before the body begins to suffer damage from irregular blood sugar and lifestyle changes are easier to make.

Studies in Finland several decades ago showed that people with “very mildly elevated blood sugar” who followed a sensible diet and exercised regularly “reduced their diabetes progression by 54%” type 2 road,” Boulton said.

“And not necessarily lounging in the gym,” he adds. “Reasonable exercise, walking instead of taking the bus, and walking up the stairs instead of the elevator, that can do the trick.”

Two recent studies show that adding about a third of a cup of fruit or vegetables to your daily diet can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 25%, while consuming more whole grains. More grains, such as brown bread and oatmeal, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. risk by 29%.

Even diabetes can be completely remitted, Gabbay said, with a proper diet, exercise, stress reduction and medication use.

“Those who are in remission may still be at risk for some long-term complications, and so they still need to be monitored, with quarterly blood tests, annual eye and foot exams, and annual screening for kidney disease and cholesterol levels,” he said.

To determine if you’re at risk for Type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association has a 60-second online test. After answering a number of questions about family history, age, gender, and physical activity, the test gives the answers.

Being over 60 years old, being overweight, having had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, a family history of diabetes, currently having high blood pressure, and being inactive all increase your risk.


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