Public Health

Why Diabetes Is Becoming More Common


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Why is Type 2 Diabetes becoming more prevalent in the developed world and what can we do to combat it?

Nowadays, it seems that the potential risk factors for diabetes seem to be increasing, but that only tells part of the story. It’s become apparent that the rate of Type 2 Diabetes is rising at a fast rate. This is most likely due to the change in lifestyle over the years. People are now less active due to the increase in desk-based jobs and increased hours spent watching television, gaming and using the internet.

Some scientists have been speculating whether diabetes will become the biggest epidemic of the century. Up to 18 million people die each year due to cardiovascular diseases (which diabetes is often a precursor to). Obesity rates are rapidly increasing, as is the level of individuals who are overweight. It is said that there are now 155 million overweight and obese children across the world. This is an alarming figure hence the need to raise awareness and promote healthy living.

Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. For the most part, lifestyle and diet modifications can be enough to stave off diabetes but there is now a need for new and effective therapies that can cure or even prevent diabetes. If patients are not caught before the prediabetes stage, they face a life of taking medication to stabilise the condition. Considering that diabetes can cause kidney failure, CVD and liver complications, the best way to tackle this growing crisis is to prevent the disease from occurring at all.

According to Diabetes UK, 60% of cases can be prevented or delayed through the execution of basic lifestyle changes. These include: increasing activity (e.g. exercising more), diet modifications and weight loss. In terms of diets, the best kind to adopt is one rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, cereals and oil*. This allows the most weight loss and protects the body from developing diabetes, which is partially regulated by weight maintenance. Essentially, eating foods that do not cause adverse weight gain is a good precaution to take when lessening the risk of developing diabetes.

It is worth noting that in some cases, patients are genetically predisposed to develop diabetes e.g. maturity onset diabetes (MODY) and cases caused by mutations in their mitochondrial DNA. However, the growing concern centres around the fact that more children and young people are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, both due to poor lifestyle and genetic predisposition. For example, if both parents have Type 2 Diabetes, there is said to be a 50% chance of their offspring developing diabetes as well. This is an alarming figure given the growing incidence of diabetes.

One way to reduce the numbers of patients with diabetes is to put more onus on the prediabetes stage. This is what is known as impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). The WHO describes it as: a fasting plasma glucose of less than 7.0 mmol/l and a 2-hour venous plasma glucose (after ingestion of 75 g oral glucose load) of 7.8 mmol/l or greater, and less than 11.1 mmol/l. Other tests that can be carried out include impaired fasting glucose which is: Impaired fasting glucose is defined as a fasting plasma glucose between 6.1 and 6.9 mmol/l.**

In terms of treating impaired glucose tolerance, there has been some success with a drug called metformin, which is an oral medication designed to treat high blood sugar. Studies have shown that it is successful in preventing Type 2 Diabetes.
Despite that, it is paramount that we focus on the lifestyle changes needed in or before the prediabetes stage to ensure that Type 2 Diabetes decreases in prevalence.

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Image from Pixabay.

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