The number of adults with diabetes has quadrupled in less than four decades. From 108 million in 1980, the number of diabetes cases worldwide skyrocketed to 422 million in 2014, which means it now affects nearly one in 11 adults worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday that rising incidence of obesity and aging populations are among the factors that drove the increase of diabetes cases worldwide.
In its first Global report on diabetes, the U.N. health agency called for stepped-up efforts to improve treatment and care for diabetes patients.
The availability of diabetes medicines and technology such as insulin can help save lives but access is limited particularly to patients in poor countries.
"Essential diabetes medicines and technologies, including insulin, needed for treatment are generally available in only 1 in 3 of the world's poorest countries," said Etienne Krug, from WHO's Department for the Management of NCDs, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
Krug added that improving access to insulin and other medicines needs to be a priority.
The incidence of diabetes rose globally but it more often affects lower and middle income people than those in wealthier countries.
Africa, Asia and the Middle East have high increases in diabetes cases with the Eastern Mediterranean region more than doubling the prevalence of the disease, which now affects 13.7 percent of its population.
The report also called to cut the risk factors for the condition, whose rising incidence is being blamed on growing consumption of food and sugary beverages.
"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 WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.
In 2012, diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths. The chronic disease marked by the body's inability to produce enough insulin to break down sugar in food is known to cause serious complications such as stroke, kidney disease, blindness and heart disease. Failure to control sugar levels in the blood also give people 20 times increased odds of having their leg amputated.
The report combined incidences of type 1 and type 2 diabetes but the surge in cases is due to type 2, which is closely linked to obesity and poor lifestyle.