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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Type 2 diabetes set to soar in younger people

In March 2022 the NHS announced that thanks to an early intervention programme thousands of people had been spared from developing Type 2 diabetes. Such was its success that, according to the NHS, those completing the nine-month programme saw a 37% reduction in their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.[1]

Despite the promise shown by this and other programmes, it appears that rather than being in decline, the numbers of those with diabetes are set to soar.

A US study concluded that if the rate of increase seen in Type 2 diabetes in young people in the US from 2002 to 2017 continues then that would lead to a 673% rise in youth diabetes by the year 2060.[2]

Those alarming statistics have been echoed in the UK with Diabetes UK reporting in June 2022 a 50% rise in the number of children being treated for Type 2 diabetes. That same report highlighted the disproportionate impact of deprivation with 40% of children with Type 2 diabetes living in the most deprived areas in England and Wales.[3]

That statistic is one reason why in January 2023 Diabetes UK launched a Tackling Inequality Commission. The Commission intends to review evidence of health inequality across the UK and to ensure that the voices of those with diabetes are heard. It intends to report in Autumn 2023.[4] However, we should also point out that diabetes is not solely a condition which is a product of deprivation with just over 5% of those affected coming from the least deprived areas of the country.

Why is this rise in childhood diabetes so alarming? Well the sad truth is that the earlier that someone develops diabetes, the longer the disease has to wreak havoc on our bodies.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of preventable sight loss in the UK. It has also been linked to heart, kidney and circulatory problems amongst others.

More than 700 people with diabetes currently die prematurely every week and with the number of young people with diabetes set to soar, that figure will only grow.

One of the prime risk factors for childhood diabetes is obesity. Tackling this, helping to ensure that young people have access to a balanced diet and regular exercise could help to reverse the diabetes epidemic without the need for medical interventions. Diabetes can start to damage the body up to five years before it is diagnosed. That’s why early diagnosis and prevention particularly in young people is so important, helping to reduce the impact on health and health services for decades to come.

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