Purpose of review: An overview of the global epidemic of diabetes and its impact on the understanding of the disease.
Recent findings: Once thought of as a disease of the West, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus is increasing at alarming rates in many other areas of the world. In recent years, significant attention has been placed on the growing Asian diabetes epidemic. As a result, the medical community has come to understand that previously defined risk factors, particularly BMI, may not be applicable to the global community. The heterogeneity of the disease has been demonstrated both through anthropometric and genetic studies. Despite this heterogeneity, some treatments, particularly lifestyle interventions, have been found to have an ethnic nonspecific positive impact on the disease.
Summary: Diabetes promises to become an even larger public health issue with significant social and economic burden with clinical practice and public health policy implications. Further population studies and identification of ethnic specific risk factors will guide research to develop a better understanding of the disease.