On the 14th of November, World Diabetes Day will be marking the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who along with Charles Best co-discovered insulin in 1922. In remembrance of this discovery, WHO aims to raise awareness of the growing concerns of diabetes regarding the increased prevalence of diabetes globally, especially type 2 diabetes, the impact it has on family and the prevention of the disease.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus (DM);

Type 1 – This is also known as insulin dependent DM. It is an autoimmune disease where inflammatory molecules such as T-cells destroy the insulin-producing beta-cell population in the pancreas. This causes the pancreas to produce little or no insulin. The exact causes of the disease are unknown, however, there are genetics and environmental factors associated with it.

The risk factors for type 1 diabetes mellitus include family history; individuals with a family history of type 1 DM have a slightly increased risk of developing the disease. Another risk factor is genetics; there are certain genes that predispose an individual to develop the disease. The disease can occur at any age, however, it peaks between the ages of 4-7-year-old and again in children between 10-14-year-old.

There are no ways to prevent type 1 DM unlike type 2 DM, however, earlier diagnosis and early initiation of treatment can ensure that there is less destruction of the insulin-producing cells.

Type 2 – This is also known as insulin independent DM whereby the body cannot utilise the insulin efficiently. The combination of genetic factors and environmental factors (such as obesity and lack of exercise) can cause insulin resistance and decreased insulin secretion. Consequently, due to the regulatory function of insulin on glucose metabolism, the levels of glucose in the bloodstream increase. The accumulation of glucose in the system can have toxic effects on the body. The progression of the disease can lead to co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetic retinopathy, hyperlipidaemia, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.


The global prevalence of diabetes among adults has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014 [1] and is expected to reach 629 million people globally by 2045[2]. This rise in prevalence might be due to increased awareness of the disease ultimately increasing the diagnosis rate and the increase in unhealthy diets and a sedimentary lifestyle. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 1.6 million deaths were caused directly by diabetes[3].

Maintaining a healthy diet and physical exercise are just some of the small ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can be screened for and reversed, in the cases of borderline type 2, and treatment can be given in order to avoid complications.

See what events are running near you, found on the International Diabetes Federation website. Click on the link: https://www.idf.org/wdd-events/

Sophie Teuber

Healthcare Analyst

[1] Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration. Sarwar N, Gao P, Seshasai SR, Gobin R, Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio E, Ingelsson E, Lawlor DA, Stampfer M, Stehouwer CD, Lewington S, Pennells L, Thompson A, Sattar N, White IR, Ray KK, Danesh J (2010) ‘Diabetes mellitus, fasting blood glucose concentration, and risk of vascular disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 102 prospective studies’, Lancet, 26(375), 2215-2222

[2] International Diabetes Federation, Diabetes Facts & Figures. Available at: https://www.idf.org/aboutdiabetes/what-is-diabetes/facts-figures.html (Accessed: 11/11/2019)

[3] The World Health Organisation (WHO), Diabetes. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes (Accessed: 11/11/2019)