Diabetes has been labelled a ‘rapidly escalating crisis’ as the number of people with the condition in the UK has now exceeded five million for the first time.

This rising number of people with diabetes may be due to Britain’s obesity epidemic, according to health experts.

Figures from 2021/22 found that there were 4,264,477 cases of diabetes in the UK. Now, an additional 850,000 people have diabetes but are unaware of it, which is worrying as type 2 diabetes can cause serious health issues including heart disease and strokes.

There are several types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is where the pancreas cannot product insulin, and type 2 diabetes is when the body is resistant to its own insulin or does not produce enough of it. There are also other types of diabetes, such as Type 3C diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of diabetes cases, is linked to obesity and is usually diagnosed during middle age, unlike type 1 diabetes which is a genetic condition commonly identified early on in life.

Diabetes UK, which revealed the alarming figures of over five million people in the UK living with diabetes, suggests that the rising rate is due to nearly two thirds of the UK’s adult population being obese and overweight.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Diabetes is serious, and every diagnosis is life-changing.

“It’s a relentless condition, and the fear of serious complications is a lifelong reality for millions of people across the UK.

“These latest figures show we’re in the grip of a rapidly escalating diabetes crisis, with spiralling numbers of people now living with type 2 diabetes and millions at high risk of developing the condition.”

Diabetes can lead to numerous health complications and one in every six people in a hospital bed has diabetes. Approximately every hour, someone with the condition has a toe, foot or leg amputated and, on average, 30 people per week in England lose their sight due to diabetes.

Diabetes is to blame for more than 770 strokes, 590 heart attacks and 2,300 cases of heart failure. The condition leads to 700 premature deaths per week in England and Wales.

Diabetes UK is particularly concerned that the number of people under 40 years old with type 2 diabetes has risen by 23 per cent in just five years. The charity warns that there could be more than 200,000 people aged between 18 and 39 living with diabetes by 2027.

The charity said: “We are calling for a firm commitment to diabetes in the government’s Major Conditions Strategy, including a continued focus on identifying those at high risk of type 2 diabetes and ensuring they are supported to reduce their risk by referral to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

“We also want to see the government push ahead with its stalled obesity strategy without further delay, including implementing delayed plans to limit junk food advertising to children, to stop people being pushed towards unhealthy food options.”

“With the right care and support, cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission,” said Mr Askew.

He concluded: “What we need to see is the will, grit and determination from Government and local health leaders to halt this crisis in its tracks and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come.”

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