Diabetes rates soar as obesity epidemic continues

THE number of new cases of diabetes has rocketed in Suffolk, according to shocking new figures released today.

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the past year has jumped by nearly 1,500, bringing the total number of diabetics in the county to just under 24,500.

The figure represents a rise of about 6.5pc on the previous year – one of the highest increases in the East of England, according to data released by Diabetes UK today.

During the same period there has been a corresponding increase in obesity of about 7.5pc on the previous year's figures.

Dr Gerry Rayman, national clinical lead for inpatient diabetes and lead consultant at Ipswich Hospital's diabetes centre, has seen an increase in the number of referrals to his unit at a time when increased community care should mean they are going down.

'Obesity is the most important factor,' he said.

'The rise in diabetes parallels the rise in obesity exactly, and that's across all civilisations.

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'In America, it's just phenomenal, and we tend to lag behind America by about 10 years, so everything that's happening there will probably be reflected here. In 10 years' time, we are going to have an even bigger problem, so we need to have an impact on children right now.

'GPs are also more aware of the condition and are therefore picking it up earlier, so that's going to be a factor, but I think it's our very sedentary lifestyle and enjoying high-calorie, high-fat foods.'

The rise is higher proportionally than that in Norfolk or Cambridgeshire, which Dr Rayman attributes to better screening programmes which have operated in those areas over the past five years.

Screening in Suffolk is due to improve as part of a national programme, but this could mean there are even more undiagnosed cases which are yet to be picked up.

Dr Rayman added: 'At the moment, diabetes consumes 10pc of the NHS income – around �10billion a year – so it's a very significant disease. People don't often realise that but it has many complications, including heart disease and stroke.

'People are living longer with diabetes, so they are developing the complications much more frequently.

'And it's across all age groups. Clearly, older people are at much higher risk but in the last five or six years we have started seeing the type of diabetes in children that we have never seen before, and that's very alarming.'

There has also been a rise in diabetes during pregnancy because women are leaving it later to have children.

The main risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are being overweight or having a large waist, being aged over 40, or having a close relative with diabetes.

But people at increased risk can decrease or even reverse the chances of developing the disease by losing weight, having a healthy diet and doing more exercise.