An update on the etiology and epidemiology of diabetes mellitus

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Nov;1084:1-29. doi: 10.1196/annals.1372.029.


Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting almost 6% of the world's population. The number of diabetic patients will reach 300 million in 2025 (International Diabetes Federation, 2001). More than 97% of these patients will have type II diabetes. The projected increase in the number of diabetic patients will strain the capabilities of healthcare providers the world over. Thus it is of paramount importance to revisit the causes and epidemiology of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is caused by both environmental and genetic factors. The environmental factors that may lead to the development of diabetes mellitus include physical inactivity, drugs and toxic agents, obesity, viral infection, and location. While type I diabetes is not a genetically predestined disease, an increased susceptibility can be inherited. Genetic susceptibility plays a crucial role in the etiology and manifestation of type II diabetes, with concordance in monozygotic twins approaching 100%. Genetic factors may have to be modified by environmental factors for diabetes mellitus to become overt. An individual with a susceptible gene may become diabetic if environmental factors modify the expression of these genes. Since there is an increase in the trend at which diabetes prevail, it is evident that environmental factors are playing a more increasing role in the cause of diabetes mellitus. The incidence of type I diabetes ranged from 1.9 to 7.0/100,000/yr in Africa, 0.13 to 10/100,000/yr in Asia, approximately 4.4/100,000/yr in Australasia, 3.4 to 36/100,000/yr in Europe, 2.62 to 20.18/100,000/yr in the Middle East, 7.61 to 25.7/100,000/yr in North America, and 1.27 to 18/100,000/yr in South America. The epidemiology of type II diabetes is equally bleak. The prevalence of type II diabetes ranged from 0.3 to 17.9% in Africa, 1.2 to 14.6% in Asia, 0.7 to 11.6% in Europe, 4.6 to 40% in the Middle East, 6.69 to 28.2% in North America, and 2.01 to 17.4% in South America.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • North America / epidemiology
  • South America / epidemiology