The number of new cases of type 2 diabetes could be stabilising, or even falling, a study suggests.
The analysis looked at 47 studies from the mid-1960s up to 2014, mainly from the US and Canada and countries across Europe including the UK.
A third of populations studied between 2006 and 2014 saw a fall in new cases and another third were stable.
But Diabetes UK said the challenges of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, both linked to the condition, remained.
Prof Dianna Magliano, head of diabetes and population health at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, in Melbourne, who led the study, said: “We are seeing a flattening of incidence and even a fall in many high income countries in the recent years.”
Studies between 1990 and 2005 showed the number of new cases increased in two-thirds (67%) of populations studied, was stable in 31% and decreased in 2%.
But from 2006 to 2014, increases were seen in only a third, with 30% staying stable and 36% declining.
Prof Magliano said: “The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from falling incidence is that we are succeeding in reducing the risk for developing diabetes in the population.”
The studies did not reveal the level of undiagnosed diabetes in populations – and a different test for type 2 diabetes was introduced around 2010.
But Sarah Wild, professor of epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said the findings echoed what she had seen in Scotland.
“There does seem to be a flattening of new cases of diabetes,” she said. “Why that is seems to be a bit of a puzzle.
“It’s good news. But that doesn’t mean we can take our eye off the ball.”
Dr Emily Burns head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said: “This study looks at type 2 diabetes through a different lens, reporting on the number diagnosed rather than the number living with the condition – which can often be distorted by factors such as how long people live for.
“With this in mind, it’s promising to see that the number of people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes might potentially be plateauing in certain parts of the world.”
But she added: “The challenges posed by obesity and unhealthy lifestyles – the two main drivers for type 2 diabetes – remain significant.
“That’s why, while the findings are interesting, this study doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the growing diabetes crisis and the vital prevention efforts under way to help tackle this.”