The worldwide trend for the past few decades is characterized by expansion of the middle class—something that we in the United States consider to be a positive development.
But the middle class, according to a recent 70-page report by the multinational bank Morgan Stanley, is expanding in more ways than one.1
“Higher income leads to a higher rate of sugar consumption and more sedentary life,” reports Carmen Nuzzo, a European economist who co-authored the report.
Per capita sugar consumption has climbed nearly fivefold over the past century to 53 pounds per year. A huge chunk of humanity finds itself, for the first time, with the income necessary to purchase sweet foods and beverages. As American diets have spread around the world—and pizza has replaced fresh fruits and vegetables as the preferred comestible for teenagers worldwide—a condition known as “diabesity” has become endemic.
According to the report, some 387 million persons have diabetes, and the emerging markets of the world are disproportionately impacted. Forty percent of patients with diabetes live in China and India, and in many countries, the disease will slow economic growth as diabetic workers lose productivity.
Even in the United States, with our remarkable medical infrastructure, lost productivity from diabetes in 2012 is calculated at $69 billion.2