By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
New reports show that one person is diagnosed with diabetes every 40 minutes in Scotland. This marks the rapid rise in the condition - a trend that is faster that experts had imagined. In the last 1 year another 14,000 Scots were added to those registered with GPs as diabetic. In the last year number of registered diabetics in Scotland increased by 6.7 per cent, compared with 6 per cent in Northern Ireland, 5.7 per cent in England and 4.8 per cent in Wales. By 2030 at least one in 10 Scots would have diabetes. Care and treatment of the disease costs the NHS in Scotland an estimated £1 billion a year. Last year, it was revealed that 620,000 Scots had so-called "pre-diabetes", making them up to 15 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.
Experts blame the nation's obesity levels as the culprit. Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow explained, "Education alone will not work. A fair proportion of the population cannot help themselves from the abundance of high-density calorie and nice tasting treats. Unless we change our food culture, it's going to be hard to change these trajectories…Unless people go for a blood test, they are not going to get picked up as having diabetes. It needs to be systematic that we are looking for diabetes, not just when a suspicion is there - though cuts in funding may go against that."
Diabetes UK had previously predicted that four million Britons would be diabetic by 2025, including a million undiagnosed.
Dr Andrew Gallagher, endocrinologist and lead clinician for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde managed clinical network added, "It's a huge problem - nobody is disputing that. We have seen a huge explosion in diabetes cases and 10 per cent of the population with the disease is not a bad estimate of prevalence in times to come…People are no longer doing the manual labor they would have done in the past, and we have the advent of fast food. It's a big problem where public health measures are not always adopted by people who need them most."
According to Jane-Claire Judson, national director of Diabetes UK Scotland also, "Once again we are seeing a rise in diabetes in Scotland. Many, but not all, develop type 2 diabetes because they are overweight or obese, so we must do all that we can to follow the "five fruit and vegetable a day" message, encourage daily physical activity and warn of the potentially devastating consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. The diabetes epidemic is a clear example of why the Scottish Government must treat public health more seriously than ever before. Failure to act now means a bleak future of spiralling NHS costs and worsening public health. Diabetes is serious: if not diagnosed early or poorly managed, it can result in blindness and amputation or a shortened life expectancy from heart disease, stroke and kidney failure." Ms Judson also explained, "We are also concerned at the levels of undiagnosed diabetes in Scotland. We have learned this week that some 60,000 people are estimated to have undiagnosed diabetes. Finding these 60,000 people is a task for government programmes; however, people can easily also find out if they are at risk."
A Scottish Government spokesman said, "Tackling rising rates of diabetes - particularly the obesity-linked type 2 - is a priority for the Scottish Government. Raising awareness is crucial if we are to prevent increasing numbers of people developing this condition…The key focus is on encouraging people to reduce their risk of developing the condition by eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight and leading an active lifestyle…Our Diabetes Action Plan was launched this year, which considered both treatment of those with the condition and how we work towards preventing cases developing."
Simon O'Neill, Diabetes UK's director of care, information and advocacy said, "Once again we see a shocking rise in diabetes and obesity rates in the UK…Many, but not all, people develop Type 2 diabetes because they are overweight so we must keep up the mantra of five fruit and vegetables a day, encourage daily physical activity and warn of the potentially devastating consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle…The obesity-fuelled Type 2 diabetes epidemic is a clear example of where the new coalition Government's rhetoric of tackling health problems through prevention must be turned into action. Failure to act now means a bleak future of spiralling NHS costs and worsening public health."
Even children would not be spared said, Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundation who added, "These figures confirm how appalling the levels of diabetes and obesity are in this country, and they would be even worse if they included children…Unfortunately, we can expect levels to go up even if in some parts of the country obesity may be being brought under control. The fat are just getting fatter and suffering the consequences of excess weight."
The Americans are no better off. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed on Friday that the prevalence of diabetes could increase to between one and five and one in three adults in the next 40 years.