Soaring numbers of under-40s are developing a type of diabetes linked to obesity and traditionally seen as a disease of the elderly.
A study of GPs’ records found the number of young people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes rose six-fold over two decades.
The most common form of the disease, it is strongly linked to obesity and was once the preserve of the middle-aged and elderly.
Those who analysed the figures said the increase can ‘almost entirely’ be explained by the obesity crisis – and warned developing diabetes early raises the odds of potentially deadly complications.
Diabetics are more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes than other people.
The condition, in which the body struggles to convert sugar to energy, also increases the risk of blindness, kidney disease and nerve and circulatory damage, which can lead to amputations. Earlier onset gives the disease time to attack the body and could bring decades of ill health.
The NHS already spends £10billion a year on diabetes – a tenth of its entire budget.
The study of a snapshot of GPs’ surgeries found that from 1991 to 1995, 577 people under 40 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
But from 2006 to 2010, that soared to more than 14,000 – a more than 20-fold increase – with young women particularly likely to be diagnosed.
A large part of this rise can be explained by changes in the way data is collected, and it is estimated the true rate of diagnosis in under-40s is now around six times higher than in the 1990s, at around 25,000 new cases a year.
Obesity rates roughly doubled in the same period, with 26 per cent of adults dangerously overweight by 2010.
In a report on their findings, published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, the researchers said: ‘Not only was the overall incidence increasing but the proportion of people aged 40 or less rose markedly.
‘This is likely to place an increasing burden on resources and may also lead to death at a younger age.’
The researchers, from Cardiff University and the Heart of England NHS Trust in Birmingham, said the rise may be partly due to better screening, since GPs now have performance-related pay that rewards them for diagnosing sufferers.
However, they said rising obesity was the main driver.
Lead researcher Professor Craig Currie said: ‘It’s almost entirely obesity. How fat you are is the top and bottom of it.’
Dr Matt Capehorn, of the National Obesity Forum, said even children in their early teens have been diagnosed.
Some are genetically more at risk but lifestyle is the key trigger, he said, adding: ‘It’s still quite rare but we do see them. In the huge majority of cases type 2 diabetes develops as a consequence of being overweight. So as the weight of the nation increases, the incidence goes up too.
‘The implications for NHS spending are huge. It already spends about 10 per cent of its entire budget on diabetes. It’s not the diabetes that kills people but usually the heart disease they develop as a consequence.’
Professor Jason Halford, of the UK Association for the Study of Obesity, warned diabetes is the first in a chain of diseases fuelled by obesity.
He said: ‘It is likely that in a few years we will see a similar epidemic of cardiovascular disease and, after that, probably an increase in a good number of cancers as well.’
2013 Miles in 2013
This year I am trying to complete 2013 miles self-powered miles. My 2013 miles in 2013 challenge is in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.
The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, in February I completed a further 200.9 miles, in March I completed 185.7 miles, in April I completed 192.1 miles and in May I completed 168 miles. If you can please spare £9.53 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.
The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/2012-AYearWithoutBeer-CF.
2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules
The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:
- All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
- I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment
To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.