UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Thursday urged to lower the number of people living with diabetes by changing unhealthy lifestyles that include poor diets and a lack of exercise.
"In today's world of plenty, it is shameful that so many people lack access to healthy foods," Ban said in his message for World Diabetes Day, which fell on Thursday.
He called on countries and communities "to support smallholder and family farmers, foster sustainable agriculture and encourage people to eat healthful produce and support physical activity, " instead of relying on fast food and quick solutions,
Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria or frequent urination, they will also become increasingly thirsty and hungry.
Started by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on Nov. 14 each year to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.
Nearly 100 years after insulin was first used to save the life of a diabetic patient, people around the world still die because they cannot access this hormone.
Approximately 350 million people are currently living with diabetes and the number is expected to double between 2005 and 2030, according to projections by WHO.
Earlier this year, countries meeting at the World Health Assembly adopted a Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases calling on countries to stop the rise in obesity and the associated rise in diabetes.
"On World Diabetes Day, I call on governments to make good on their commitments to address non-communicable diseases, including by fostering sustainable food production and consumption," Ban said. "I encourage all people to minimize their personal risk."
Diabetes has become one of the major causes of premature illness and death in most countries, mainly through the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
More than 80 percent of people with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries and are aged between 35 and 64, said WHO, adding that early diagnosis and proper treatment are key to controlling the disease.