The meeting will hear that diabetes affects an estimated 19 million people in the 25 members states of the European Union (over 4 per cent of the population) and is also a major cause of death.
The statistics support the role to be played by health foods and new functional food ingredients designed to reduce pre-diabetes symptoms.
The last 20 years have seen an explosive increase in diabetes globally, linked, among other factors, to the emergence of obesity. Recent projections, based on the assumption of a stable obesity rate, foresee that at least about 26 million citizens in Europe (about 6 per cent of the population) will be affected by diabetes in the EU by 2030.
This figure could be even higher however, as people lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which combined with unbalanced diets, increases the risk of becoming overweight. A third of diabetes cases in Europe are estimated to be still undiagnosed.
A recent poll of food industry executives by Reuters Business Insight found that 33 per cent expect 'diabetes friendly' foods to be highly profitable by 2009. Low-glycaemic foods are also expected to increase in profitability by 18 per cent between now and 2009.
The research financed by the European Union aims at contributing to fighting the diabetes tide as well as related diseases, mainly obesity and the metabolic syndrome.
Other projects in the UK are also looking at these areas, including a €4m study by the government-funded Food Standards Agency to research the impact of different foods on the chances of developing a collection of risk factors linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.