The diabetes epidemic is only getting worse, and unless research is done, the socioeconomic impact can be staggering, world health officials said on Tuesday.

There are now 366 million people in the world with diabetes, and healthcare spending on this disease has reached 465 billion U.S. dollars, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

Health officials from the IDF made the announcement at a meeting with the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Lisbon, Portugal.

IDF's latest Atlas data are proof indeed that diabetes is a massive challenge the world can no longer afford to ignore, IDF president Jean Claude Mbanya said in a statement. In 2011, one person is dying from diabetes every seven seconds. The clock is ticking for the world's leaders.

The EASD echoed the IDF's thoughts.

The socio-economic impact of not just diabetes, but all non-communicable diseases, is staggering, EASD vice-president Andrew Boulton said in an IDF statement. EASD fully supports the IDF and echoes the call of Prof. Mbanya's for increased funds for medical research.

The statement comes days before a United Nations high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases, Medscape Today reported.  

Approximately 1.9 million people aged 20 and older in the U.S. were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, according to a 2011 fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S., or 8.3 percent of the population, according to the fact sheet. The CDC estimates that seven million of these people have undiagnosed cases.