File photo: A mobile diabetes bus that was handed to Mercy Clinic in Winterveld by the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Frankfurt - Diabetes is a growing global public health problem, pharmaceutical company Sanofi said on Thursday.

“It has serious impact on health and shortens life expectancy,” said Sanofi diabetologist Didier Halimi.

He was briefing reporters from different countries in Germany at an international diabetes conference organised by Sanofi to coincide with World Diabetes Day.

Halimi said 366 million people in the world were living with some form of diabetes.

In Africa, the figure stood at 15 million, of which an estimated 6.5m were in South Africa.

Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to produce glucose because the pancreas does not produce any insulin, or the insulin produced does not work properly.

There are two forms of diabetes - type one, when the body cannot produce enough insulin, and type two, when the body cannot effectively use the insulin being produced.

Type two diabetes relates to obesity and lifestyle. Type one diabetes requires daily intake of insulin.

Halimi said: “Mass screening is critical. It is better to know earlier.”

He said 4.6 million people died of diabetes in 2011, and it was estimated that more people would develop diabetes in the coming 20 years.

In Africa, it was projected that the number of people with diabetes would increase 90 percent by 2030.

* The author of this report is attending the conference as a guest of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi. - Sapa