BACKGROUND: The evidence for a "diabesity" epidemic is accumulating worldwide but population-based data are still scarce in the African region. We assessed the prevalence, awareness and control of diabetes (DM) in the Seychelles, a rapidly developing country in the African region. We also examined the relationship between body mass index, fasting serum insulin and DM. METHODS: Examination survey in a sample representative of the entire population aged 25-64 of the Seychelles, attended by 1255 persons (participation rate of 80.2%). An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was performed in individuals with fasting blood glucose between 5.6 and 6.9 mmol/l. Diabetes mellitus (DM), impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) were defined along criteria of the ADA. Prevalence estimates were standardized for age. RESULTS: The prevalence of DM was 11.5% and 54% of persons with DM were aware of having DM. Less than a quarter of all diabetic persons under treatment were well controlled for glycemia (HbA1c), blood pressure or LDL-cholesterol. The prevalence of IGT and IFG were respectively 10.4% and 24.2%. The prevalence of excess weight (BMI > or = 25 kg/m2) and obesity (BMI > or = 30 kg/m2) was respectively 60.1% and 25.0%. Half of all DM cases in the population could be attributed to excess weight. CONCLUSION: We found a high prevalence of DM and pre-diabetes in a rapidly developing country in the African region. The strong association between overweight and DM emphasizes the importance of weight control measures to reduce the incidence of DM in the population. High rates of diabetic persons not aware of having DM in the population and insufficient cardiometabolic control among persons treated for DM stress the need for intensifying health care for diabetes.