Geneva: The number of people living with diabetes has nearly quadrupled to 422 million over 35 years, with most living in developing countries, the WHO warned today, adding the world is facing an "unrelenting march" of the disease which now affects nearly one in 11 adults.
Factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity, according to a major new report by World Health Organisation (WHO) released ahead of the World Health Day.
The report warned that the diabetes cases have risen to 422 million in 2014 from 108 million in 1980, 314 million more.
"If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.
"Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes," said Chan.
High blood sugar levels are a major killer - linked to 3.7 million deaths around the world each year, the report said.
The numbers would continue to increase unless "drastic action" was taken, officials said.
The report clubs both type 1 and type 2 diabetes together, but the surge in cases is predominantly down to type 2 - the form closely linked to poor lifestyle.
"Diabetes is a silent disease, but it is on an unrelenting march that we need to stop," Dr Etienne Krug, the WHO official in charge of leading efforts against diabetes was quoted as saying by the 'BBC News'.
"We can stop it, we know what needs to be done, but we cannot let it evolve like it does because it has a huge impact on people's health, on families and on society," said Krug.
"Two things really worry me when I read this report. One is that one-in-11 people today have diabetes. And the other is the lack of fairness.
"Today in most low income countries, people who have diabetes and need access to medicine and technology to manage it don't have access to it," he said.