Diabetes has reached virtually epidemic levels in the modern world. In 2005 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that about 7 percent of the American population (20.9 million people) had diabetes—and 6.2 million of them were unaware of it. More than 1.5 million people over the age of 20 will be diagnosed with it in the U.S. this year. About 21 percent of those older than 60 have the disease.
Small wonder, then, given the severe complications associated with diabetes, that it continues to be the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. And although diabetes was often called a “disease of affluence” in the past, it is now one of the fastest-rising health concerns in developing nations as well: the World Health Organization pegs the global total at more than 171 million cases.