I was not surprised when I saw in the news that the number of patients in the UK with diabetes has doubled to 3.7 million in the last 20 years. The finding came from Diabetes UK. Diabetes really is an awful disease that causes blindness, stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and amputations.
I’ve been attending conferences for years now talking about the real cost of obesity being seen through increasing numbers of patients with Type 2 Diabetes. It’s an inevitable consequence of the obesity epidemic.
Those of Asian and African ethnicity are also more at risk from diabetes than others. This has been established for many years and is recognised in the surgery guidelines that NICE provide. This may be one of the reasons why it has now been assessed that over 10% of the adult population in Bradford has been diagnosed with diabetes, and there are several other places where we are nearly at 10%. That statistic reminded me of the scale of the problem we, as a nation, will be managing in the years ahead. It still feels to me as if it doesn’t get the headlines and political focus it needs. I wonder whether that may be linked in some way to our seat of power and the country’s media ‘centre’ being in central London, where the prevalence is just over 4%, less than half the rate in Bradford, Sandwell, Harrow and West Birmingham, to mention just 4 areas with rates above 9%.
The cost of managing diabetes has the potential to exhaust the NHS’s already stretched resources. The truth is that it simply will not be possible to keep up with costs that will spiral out of control. Not only are treatment costs going up but the cost of compensating people who make claims against the NHS is rising out of control too. That’s a story for a whole different blog though.
What’s the answer to the obesity epidemic, it's not one thing. There is no ‘silver bullet’. From what I’ve learned I would argue the process starts at home with young children. They need the right education about food and nutrition, parents who can afford the right foods and who have time to prepare them, and an environment that encourages physical exercise. None of those three things is easily achieved in today’s world, but it’s in all of our interests to find solutions. If the nation gets fatter, slower and less healthy, then so will the country’s productivity and potential.
We all have a stake in this, whatever our BMI!
For the current generation of diabetics, these long-term solutions will come too late. For them, the solution is likely to reside in a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass procedure. These are proven to stop and reverse diabetes in the vast majority of patients.