An estimated one-third of the world’s adult population is overweight or obese and at risk of developing diabetes and other serious health conditions, according to a new study by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
“The evidence is well established: obesity, together with excessive consumption of fat and salt, is linked to the rising global incidence of non-communicable diseases including some cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes,” the report states.
The study found the biggest problem to be in developing countries, where an estimated 900 million are considered overweight – nearly three times as many as 1980. Comparatively, about 550 million people in higher-income countries are overweight, an increase of about 1.7 since 1980.
“The growing rates of overweight and obesity in developing countries are alarming,” said the report’s author, ODI Research Fellow Steve Wiggins. “On current trends, globally, we will see a huge increase in the number of people suffering certain types of cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, putting an enormous burden on public health care systems.”
The pharmaceutical industry has stepped up to the occasion, developing medications to treat these serious conditions and making billions from sales of the drugs worldwide. Standard & Poor has estimated that the annual market for drugs to treat type 2 diabetes alone will hit $58 billion by 2018, increasing from about $35 billion today. While these drugs may help diabetics manage their disease, it may also put them at risk for other serious health problems, including cancer.
In 2011, studies revealed that the type 2 diabetes drug Actos was linked to bladder cancer. The risk was even more prevalent for patients who used the drug long-term. More recent studies have raised concerns about the drugs Januvia and Byetta, both of which have been associated with an increased risk of acute pancreatitis and abnormal cell growth in the pancreas, which can lead to pancreatic cancer.