UK diabetes rates soar

The UK is seeing an explosion of diabetes linked to growing obesity rates, experts are warning.

From 1997 to 2003 there was a 74% rise in new cases of diabetes.

And by 2005, more than 4% of the population was classed as having diabetes – nearly double the rate of 10 years earlier.

The bulk of cases are type 2 diabetes -which is linked to being overweight or obese – the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports.

The findings suggest that rates of diabetes are increasing at a faster rate in the UK than they are in the US, where prevalence of the disease is already one of the highest in the world.

Of more than 42,642 people who were newly diagnosed with the disease between 1996 and 2005, just over 1,250 had the “insulin-dependent” type 1 diabetes, and more than 41,000 had later-onset type 2 disease, which is linked to lifestyle.

While the numbers of new cases of type 1 diabetes remained fairly constant over the decade, the numbers of new cases of type 2 diabetes did not.

These shot up from 2.60 to 4.31 cases per 1,000 patient years, equivalent to an increase of 69% over the decade.

The researchers from Spain and Sweden who analysed the data from almost five million medical records say the trends are not due to increased screening or the UK’s ageing population, but from rising obesity rates.

‘Time bomb’

Over the course of the study, the proportion of patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who were obese increased by a fifth.

The researchers said: “Our results suggest that, although the incidence of diabetes remains lower in the UK than in the USA or Canada, it appears to be increasing at a faster pace.”

Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said projections suggested the worst was yet to come: “Rates of obesity and diabetes will continue to rise unless we do something urgently.”

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “This research is a sad indictment of the current state of the UK’s health. Sadly, the statistics are not surprising as we know that the soaring rates of type 2 diabetes, are strongly linked to the country’s expanding waistline.

“Research shows that losing weight can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%. It is imperative that we raise awareness of the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day if we want to make any headway in defusing the diabetes time bomb.”

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: “Early detection and treatment are crucial. We must do whatever we can to find the half-million people who don’t know they’ve got it.”

There are currently over 2.5 million people with diabetes in the UK and there are more than half a million people with diabetes who have the condition and don’t know it.

Type 2 diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40, however, recently, more children are being diagnosed with the condition, some as young as seven.

Although obesity is a risk factor, not all people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

According to Diabetes UK, statistics show that over 80% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

The NHS is spending £1m an hour – 10% of its yearly budget – treating diabetes and its complications, according to the charity.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the rise in recorded diabetes cases was partly due to improvements in diagnosis, along with rising rates of obesity and an ageing population.

As a result, more people were getting the support, advice and treatment required to prevent or delay complications.

“We are committed to working with the NHS to help prevent people from developing diabetes,” the spokesperson added.

Shadow Health Minister Anne Milton said: “We need to see proactive policies which look to reduce obesity rather than policies that simply treat the effects of it.”

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