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Diabesity: the new epidemic

Junk food, sedentary lifestyle and other factors have led to what has become the world’s number one complication of obesity: diabetes. The simultaneous growth of these two phenomena has prompted experts to talk of ‘diabesity’.

The diabesity epidemic
© Thinkstock

Diabetes is now one of the five leading causes of mortality in many Western countries. Upwards of 75% of risks attributable to diabetes are due to obesity, which is why some scientists now use the term ‘diabesity’. How to favourably tip the balance between excess weight and good health?

Diabesity: a new word for an increasing problem

Excess weight and obesity spread at such a dramatic rate that experts now talk of an epidemic. In the meantime, there has been an increase in Type 2 diabetes, also called sugar diabetes. 150 million people across the world suffer from diabetes, 90% of whom have Type 2 diabetes. Estimates are pessimistic to say the least, as a twofold increase in this figure is expected over the next 25 years. Diabetes cases in the UK could reach 4m by 2025. 

According to the World Health Organization, “The number of deaths attributed to diabetes was previously estimated at just over 800,000. However, it has long been known that the number of deaths related to diabetes is considerably underestimated. A more plausible figure is likely to be around 4 million deaths per year related to the presence of the disorder. This is about 9% of the global total."

Given the severe complications in terms of health (cardiovascular problems, blindness, amputation and so on) as well as the costs, organizations such as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) have advocated intensifying efforts to prevent this type of diabetes from progressing. President of the IDF, Professor George Alberti, stated recently that "The importance of diabetes prevention cannot be underestimated".

Beware of the epidemic of obesity…

The best way to prevent Type 2 diabetes is to change your lifestyle by adopting a balanced diet and practising regular physical activity. Such simple steps have virtues that go way beyond fighting diabetes: obesity reduction, lower blood pressure, decline in cholesterol level and increased wellbeing.

In the US, mounting concerns have led to the problem being tackled early on with a new strategy of detecting pre-diabetes cases, which corresponds to slightly excessive blood glucose levels that could result in actual diabetes should the patient fail to change their habits. These measures could help unsuspecting patients become aware of their condition. Health officials are encouraging general practitioners to more customarily prescribe blood sugar level measurements in an effort to screen for pre-diabetes.

Despite these prevention measures, the situation continues to deteriorate. Scientists have noted an increase in obesity and diabetes at an early age. Diagnosed for the first time in the US, Type 2 diabetes in children now affects various parts of the world. And in the US and in the UK, epidemiological studies have been conducted to assess the scope and development of the problem. In the last decade, as the prevalence of obesity in the UK has increased so has the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in children.

Unfortunately, there is still a relative paucity of literature on this subject but that should change in the near future as long-term studies come to fruition.

Posted 08.09.2010

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