Figures released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) at the 20th World Diabetes Congress in Montreal, Canada, this week show an enormous increase in the number of people with diabetes, from 30 million in 1985 to nearly 300 million today. The figures, which come from the IDF Diabetes Atlas, show that more than half of diabetes sufferers are aged between 20 and 60, and that most are from low- and middle-income countries. Current predictions suggest that if this growth rate continues unabated, there will be around 435 million sufferers by 2030. Professor Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the IDF, said: 'The data from the latest edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas show that the epidemic is out of control. We are losing ground in the struggle to contain diabetes. No country is immune and no country is fully equipped to repel this common enemy.' Diabetes is now a serious threat worldwide affecting around 7% of the world's population. It is responsible for around 4 million deaths each year and is a leading cause of kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, amputation and blindness. It is also putting a huge strain on medical resources. Estimates put its effects on total world healthcare expenditure in 2010 at 11.6%. It is also threatening economic prosperity and development. Nearly 80% of diabetes healthcare spending is in the richest countries, but 70% of people with diabetes live in poorer countries. Here, people usually have to pay for diabetes treatment themselves, causing families to sink further into poverty. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Around 85% to 95% of cases worldwide are type 2. Type 1, which is also called insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disease, and is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It cannot be prevented and sufferers need regular insulin injections to maintain proper blood sugar levels. Type 2 is caused by high blood glucose levels due to faulty insulin production and it is estimated that around 60% of cases could be prevented by a healthy diet, exercise and avoiding obesity. 'Governments need to invest in actions outside the formal health sector, particularly in promoting healthier diets and physical activity, to reduce obesity and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,' stated Professor Nigel Unwin, from the IDF Diabetes Atlas. 'Without effective prevention, diabetes will overwhelm health systems and hinder economic growth.' North America has the highest comparative rate of diabetes, with 10.2% of the adult population suffering from the disease. Figures are also rising sharply in the Middle East and north Africa, as well as in China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan and Pakistan. The IDF has warned that health care services throughout the world are not equipped to deal with the threat and that they must be alerted, since failure to take action could have serious consequences. 'The epidemic represents nothing short of a global health emergency,' said Professor Mbanya. 'It is alarming that world leaders stand by while the diabetes fuse slowly burns. The serious impact on families, countries and economies continues with little resistance. Governments, aid agencies and the international community must take concerted action to defuse the threat now, before the diabetes time bomb explodes.'