The International Diabetes Federation has released data (this week) that indicates the number of people living with diabetes around the world will likely rise from 366 million to 552 million by 2030 if urgent action is not taken. In marking World Diabetes Day this week, the World Health Organization focused attention on India and other developing countries that bear the brunt of the global diabetes epidemic - even as new research offers hope that a cure for the most common form of the disease - Type 2 diabetes - might not be far off.
Many public monuments in New Delhi were illuminated with blue lights on Monday to mark World Diabetes Day. There was good reason for the special notice. India has the world's largest number of diabetics - more than 50 million people and that number is expected to climb to 61 million over the next two decades.
“We want to disseminate the message to the public all over India and also to the world that you (should) beware of diabetes,” said Anup Mishra, chairman of the Fortis Center for Diabetes in India.
The International Diabetes Federation predicts that at least one in 10 people in the world could have diabetes by 2030. This most common of human disorders is caused mainly by poor diet, excess body weight and physical inactivity. It not only reduces the quality of life but is also a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and dementia.
A team of researchers in the United States reported recently that it was able to cure Type 2 diabetes in mice. In a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis,Missouri, the researchers treated mice with a naturally-occurring substance known by its chemical acronym, NMN.
“The bottom line is, NMN has remarkable effects on Type 2 diabetes, at least in mice,” said Professor Shin-ichiro Imai. He explains the results in mice hold promise because the metabolic processes that NMN influences in mice are likely to be the same in the human body.
“We fed mice a high-fat diet where 40 percent of the calories came from fat - a fatty, nasty diet which the mice liked and eventually they came up (down) with serious Type 2 diabetes. And that’s the model we used to examine the effects of NMN and it works really well.”
The study shows that aging and eating a high-fat diet reduce production of NMN in the body, leading to abnormal metabolic conditions - including diabetes.
The researchers are collaborating with a Japanese company to come up with a grade of the compound that can be used in human trials.
“It will probably take a couple of years, but we are planning to launch a human pilot trial,” said Imai.
The hope is that one day, it will be possible for people to take the compound like a daily vitamin as a way to treat or even prevent Type 2 diabetes.