Diabetes and Obesity
The UK is the 'fattest' country in Europe. The number of obese adults is forecast to rise by 73% over the next 20 years from to 26 million people, resulting in more than a million extra cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Obesity is also no longer a condition that just affects older people, although the likelihood does increase with age, and increasing numbers of young people have been diagnosed with obesity.
It is estimated that approximately 1 in every 5 adults in the UK is overweight, and approximately one in every 15 is obese.
Links between obesity and type 2
The links between type 2 diabetes and obesity are firmly established.
Without the intervention of a healthy diet and appropriate exercise, obesity may develop into diabetes over a relatively short period of time.
Diabetes and obesity are closely linked. Charity Diabetes UK states that obesity accounts for between 80 and 85% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The charity notes that central obesity, having a large waistline, is a better predictor of type 2 diabetes than BMI values.
Being obese raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. With this said, there are other risk factors involved as well, such as genetics, ethnicity and age. Not all people who are obese are diabetic and not all people with type 2 diabetes are, or have been, obese.
There are a number of factors which can contribute to becoming obese:
- Eating a high calorie diet
- Not getting enough physical exercise
- Medical conditions
The NHS states that, for those that are obese, a loss of 5% of body weight along with regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by over 50%.
Loss of body weight has been shown to improve blood glucose levels and has allowed people with type 2 diabetes to come off or avoid going onto insulin.
The following steps are listed by the NHS and Diabetes UK to help with losing weight:
- Avoid reliance on refined carbohydrates
- Base main meals around vegetables
- Be wary of misleading food packaging - low fat does not necessarily mean low calorie
- Don’t rely on processed foods and takeaways for regular meals
- Watch your alcohol intake - alcohol is highly calorific
- Watch portion sizes - many of us in the UK are eating larger portions than we need
- Take regular physical activity - find ways to avoid reliance on motorised transport
Education and awareness is the key to solving the diabetes problem in the UK, but tackling obesity when it is still at an early stage is essential in preventing the spread of the disease.
In the UK, the cost to the NHS of diabetes and related conditions is enormous, and is only likely to grow in size.
Patient numbers are forecast to double by as early as 2015, meaning a large and potentially unsustainable drain on resources.
Complications such as foot ulceration, nephropathy, retinopathy and heart disease, as well as being serious risks for the patients are very costly to treat.
There is a need for widespread and far-reaching culturally appropriate educational literature that informs the population of the risk of eating badly and not taking exercise.
Modifying lifestyle factors can often prevent obesity, and in order to avoid a healthcare crisis the UK needs to spread information that highlights the importance of doing just that.
Preventing childhood obesity, which is currently rising in the UK, should be a priority.