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Diabetes mellitus statistics on prevalence and mortality: facts and fallacies


Diabetes mellitus is one of the most important public health challenges of the twenty-first century. Until the past decade, it has been seriously underrated as a global health threat. Major gaps exist in efforts to comprehend the burden nationally and globally, especially in developing nations, due to a lack of accurate data for monitoring and surveillance. Early attempts to obtain accurate data, discussed in this article, seem to have been cast aside so, at present, these needs remain unmet. Existing international efforts to assemble information fall far short of requirements. Current estimates are imprecise, only providing a rough picture, and probably underestimate the disease burden. The methodologies that are currently used, and that are discussed in this Perspectives article, are inadequate for providing a complete and accurate assessment of the prevalence of diabetes mellitus. International consensus on uniform standards and criteria for reporting national data on diabetes mellitus prevalence as well as for common complications of diabetes mellitus and mortality need to be developed.

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Figure 1: Attendees at the historic 1978 Kroc Foundation Conference at the McDonald Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA12.
Figure 2: The percentage of the US population aged 20–74 years (NHANES 2005–2006, n = 2,017) with undiagnosed diabetes mellitus by three diagnostic criteria23.
Figure 3: The percentage of US adults aged >18 years (NHANES 2005–2008) with a | intermediate hyperglycaemia (WHO) or b | prediabetes (ADA, 2003 criteria)27.


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Authors and Affiliations



P.Z., K.G.A. and P.H.B. researched data for the article, contributed to discussion of the content, wrote the article and reviewed and/or edited the article before submission. D.J.M. contributed to discussion of the content and reviewed and/or edited the article before submission.

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Correspondence to Paul Zimmet.

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Zimmet, P., Alberti, K., Magliano, D. et al. Diabetes mellitus statistics on prevalence and mortality: facts and fallacies. Nat Rev Endocrinol 12, 616–622 (2016).

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