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Diabetes strikes "staggering" 366 million people

Medications can be essential, even life-saving. But they cannot bring about the weight loss that is needed for really tackling diabetes and keeping blood sugar under control. And while medications usually target one problem at a time - blood glucose or cholesterol, for example - a healthy diet tackles all of these at once. Diet and lifestyle are especially important for preventing diabetes. Recently, scientists tested two methods for preventing type 2 diabetes in at-risk people. Diet and exercise proved more powerful for prevent diabetes than drug treatments. istockphoto

(CBS/AP) Diabetes has gone global - and the epidemic is getting worse, says a global diabetes authority.

A "staggering" 366 million people around the world have either Type 1 or 2 diabetes, says the International Diabetes Federation. The disease has taken a deadly toll, causing 4.6 million deaths each year, or one death every seven seconds. The diabetes epidemic is also heavy on healthcare spending, to the tune of $465 billion a year to fight the disease.

The federation says it's time for global officials to step up and commit more time and research to prevent diabetes.

"The clock is ticking for the world's leaders," Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the federation, said in a written statement. "We expect action from their meeting next week at the United Nations that will halt diabetes' relentlessly upwards trajectory."

The federation, which represents associations from more than 160 countries, announced the figures in Lisbon, Portugal on Tuesday. It wants officials to outline concrete measures to stop the epidemic. Some experts suggest diabetes treatment should be integrated into local health clinics.

In August, a study in The Lancet estimated another 65 million Americans would be obese by 2030, which would tack on another 8 million new cases of diabetes, CBS News reported.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to break down glucose, increasing the body's blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity, and can be managed with diet, physical activity, and sometimes, medication. Diabetes also contributes to complications, like cataracts, skin ulcers, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

Are you heading towards a diabetes diagnosis? Click here to take the CDC's diabetes risk test.

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