Diabetes is costing the United States up to 160 billion dollars per year and might affect one-third of Americans by the middle of the century, former US President Bill Clinton said Sunday in Dubai.
"By the middle of this century, the diabetes rate in the United States could be as high as one-third of our whole population," Clinton said on the sidelines of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Diabetes Leadership Forum held in Dubai.
"If that happens it will dramatically erode the productivity of the economy and place a burden on the cost of the healthcare system," he added. Given such circumstances, "it will be hard for any nation to sustain."
"In America we pay today approximately 150 billion to 160 billion dollars in direct costs as a result of this explosive problem," Clinton said. One-tenth of US adults are currently estimated to suffer from diabetes.
The disease, a failure of the body to process sugar properly, seems to be a bigger problem in the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting the forum.
With 19.5 percent of its native population suffering from the disease in 2007, the oil-rich Gulf federation ranks second in the world after the tiny island of Nauru, where 30.7 percent of the population were found to be diabetic in the same year.
Five Arab Gulf countries -- UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman -- are among the top 10 states with the highest levels of diabetes. Tonga came in sixth place, followed by Mauritius, Egypt and Mexico.
"The statistics paint an alarming picture," said UAE's health minister Doctor Hanif Hassan Ali al-Qassim.
Diabetes consumes "over 13 percent of the MENA (countries') healthcare budget," said Qassim.
In the MENA region where 20 percent of the population is obese, 26.6 million people suffer from Diabetes, and the number is expected to double to 51.7 million people by 2030, the forum said.
Around seven hundred regional and international experts are participating in the forum, sponsored by global healthcare company Nova Nordisk, and attended by former US President Bill Clinton and Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik.