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04.12.2023 Global Health

Cases of metabolic diseases increase worldwide

Study calls for immediate action after analyzing data from last two decades of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors

Illustration: Rafaela Pascotto/Estúdio Voador

There was a global increase in the prevalence of all metabolic diseases between 2000 and 2019, but a slight decrease in mortality for some of them, including hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The mortality rate of type 2 diabetes and obesity, however, did not change.

These are the findings of a study that examined data from the 2019 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD 2019). The article was published this year in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The analysis revealed that the number of cases increased most significantly in countries with a high sociodemographic index, but the highest mortality rates occurred in countries with medium and low sociodemographic indices. The most affected region was the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, Egypt, and Lebanon, among others.

The results indicate that the prevalence of metabolic diseases has been rising at a stable rate over the last two decades. For type 2 diabetes, the increase was 1.56%. Hypertension and NAFLD rose by 0.20% and 0.83% respectively. In absolute numbers, there were an estimated 43.8 million cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide in 2019, in addition to 18.5 million cases of hypertension and 1.2 billion of NAFLD.

In terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—a measure of the amount of time lost to a disease—type 2 diabetes accounted for 19.95% among women and 17.97% among men in 2019. For hypertension, the rate was 6.93% among women and 5.44% among men, and for NAFLD, women were at a slight advantage, with 24.10% compared to 31.49% for men.

When it comes to obesity, the proportion was reversed: females were the most affected at 47.85%, versus 43.76% for men.

In the Americas, the sex most affected by metabolic disaeases reflected global trends, with type 2 diabetes accounting for 23.20% of DALYs among women and 21.58% among men; hypertension attributable to 4.51% among women and 4.24% among men; and NAFLD at 15.55% for women and 21.45% for men.

Obesity also followed the global pattern with women the most affected in the Americas, at 55.37% for women and 50.95% for men.

The proportion of deaths caused by certain metabolic diseases and risks was greater among women. Globally, type 2 diabetes accounts for 12.48% of deaths among women and 11.64% among men.

Hypertension, meanwhile, represents 10.87% of deaths for women and 8.08% for men, and for obesity the figure is 41.83% for women and 40.36% for men. Women are only less affected by hyperlipidemia, with 33.52% versus 38.45% among men. Similar proportions are seen in the Americas.

The study emphasizes that the increased prevalence of chronic noncommunicable diseases that cause premature death is an immediate global public health concern and that effective preventive and therapeutic measures need to be implemented both individually and community-wide, with a particular focus on regional and socioeconomic factors.

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