Experts come to UConn Med School for “global pandemic”

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FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) –  There are four times as many people with diabetes in the world than there were four decades ago. That’s according to a recent study by the World Health Organization. That alarming statistic has experts from around the world meeting in Connecticut this week.

“It’s a pandemic,” said Dr. Milton Wallack of the Connecticut Center for Metabolic Disease Research. He helped organize a two day symposium at the UConn School of Medicine’s Department of Genetics and Genomics. A World Health Organization study shows the number of people with diabetes worldwide has quadrupled since 1980.

“There’s about 350 million people who are involved with diabetes, suffering from diabetes worldwide,” Dr. Wallack explained. “There’s probably half a billion people involved with obesity.”

Being overweight makes a person much more likely to get diabetes. That means, theoretically, diabetes can largely be controlled in relatively simple ways.

“Exercise, eating right and the kind of things that we know,” said Dr. Bruce Liang, Dean of the UConn School of Medicine. “But we have to implement in practice.”

It can be a problem, however, to implement a diet and exercise regimen in developing countries, where diabetes is spreading the most rapidly.

“In fact obesity is a global issue,” said Dr. Liang. “It is one of the non-communicable targets for the whole world and a study just came out showing the prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled.”

UConn, Yale, the Jackson Lab and Israel’s Weizmann Institute are all in Farmington, working together to find not just treatments, but possibly a cure.

“We definitely need to look for new venues, new drugs, new types of treatment and these kinds of meetings,” explained Alon Chen of the Weizmann Institute of Science. “This is what it is all about. To try and find new solutions.”

A cure is probably still years away, so in the meantime, the best advice to avoid getting diabetes is eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.

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