The increase in the prevalence of diabetes may be due to better detection and people surviving longer with the disease not an increase in new cases, according to new research published in The Lancet.Henrik Stovring from the University of Southern Denmark and colleagues report the findings of an epidemiological analysis of drug-treated diabetes for 470,000 inhabitants of the county of Fyn, Denmark, between 1993 and 1999.
The scientists found a steady increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the Danish population was not accompanied by an increase in new cases of the disease, as deaths from diabetes have actually fallen over the past decade.
During the study, the total proportion of people with diabetes increased by around 3 per cent annually, while the proportion of new cases of diabetes in the population remained unchanged. The researchers concluded that there had been a 3 per cent reduction in deaths from diabetes in 1999 compared with 1993 while prevalence of diabetes had increased in the study population.
Following this discovery the investigators commented that: "future research into the causes of rising diabetes prevalence should take this fall in mortality into account to avoid incorrect conclusions about the relation between western lifestyle and the growing number of diabetics."
In an accompanying commentary, Edwin Gale from the University of Bristol, UK, concluded: "this report reminds us that the rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes is complex and deserves more detailed examination. Let us take some comfort from the hint that, in some populations at least, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes may have risen mainly because people are being picked up and treated earlier or are living longer."