The proportions of people with type 2 diabetes and obesity have increased throughout Asia, and the rate of increase shows no sign of slowing. People in Asia tend to develop diabetes with a lesser degree of obesity at younger ages, suffer longer with complications of diabetes, and die sooner than people in other regions. Childhood obesity has increased substantially and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has now reached epidemic levels in Asia. The health consequences of this epidemic threaten to overwhelm health-care systems in the region. Urgent action is needed, and advocacy for lifestyle changes is the first step. Countries should review and implement interventions, and take a comprehensive and integrated public-health approach. At the level of primary prevention, such programmes can be linked to other non-communicable disease prevention programmes that target lifestyle-related issues. The cost of inaction is clear and unacceptable.