In a study published in the The Lancet journal, an international team of researchers working with The World Health Organization found that rates of diabetes have either risen or at best remained the same in virtually all parts of the world in the past 30 years.
The estimated number of diabetics is markedly higher than a previous projections that put the number at 285 million worldwide. This study found that of the 347 million people with diabetes, 138 million live in China and India and another 36 million in the United States and Russia.
The most common type of diabetes, Type 2, is strongly associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
"Diabetes is becoming more common almost everywhere in the world," said Majid Ezzati, from Britain's Imperial College London, who led the study along with Goodarz Danaei from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States.
"Unless we develop better programs for detecting people with elevated blood sugar and helping them to improve their diet and physical activity and control their weight, diabetes will inevitably continue to impose a major burden on health systems around the world," Danaei added in a joint statement.
People with diabetes have inadequate blood sugar control, which can lead to serious complications like heart disease and stroke, damage to the kidneys or nerves, and to blindness.
Experts say high blood glucose and diabetes cause around 3 million deaths globally each year, a number that will continue to rise as the number of people affected increases.
As a result, diabetes is a booming market for drugmakers like Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, Eli Lilly, Merck and Takeda.