Millions of people threatened by the diabetes time bomb

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Millions of lives are threatened by the dual epidemics of diabetes and obesity that are bound to explode in this century, international diabetes and obesity organizations said today in the run up to World Diabetes Day.

Obesity and overweight now often affect an alarming 50-65% of a nation’s population not only in the USA, Europe, and Australia, but also in lower to moderate income countries such as Mexico, Egypt, and the black population of South Africa. Even countries with significant rates of under-nutrition such as Ghana start to see a growing prevalence of overweight and obesity in certain socio-economic groups.

Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is a major modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which accounts for over 90% of all diabetes. Diabetes alone currently affects 194 million people worldwide and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) predicts that this will increase to 333 million by 2025, with a massive burden in developing countries.

“Losing a small amount of weight can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, or its complications”, said Professor Martin Silink, President-Elect of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). “It is estimated that at least half of all diabetes cases would be eliminated if weight gain could be prevented”, he went on.

The risk of diabetes increases with the more weight an individual has. However, several studies such as Diabetes Prevention Programme, the Da Qing IGT and Diabetes study and the Finnish Diabetes Prevention study confirmed that moderate weight loss (5 to 10%) and increased physical activity can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes in high-risk groups, such as those with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). The Diabetes Prevention Program, for example, found that the participants who increased their physical activity and lost 5-7% of their body weight (10-15 pounds or 4,5-7 kg) reduced their progression to diabetes by 58% during the course of the study.

In those who are overweight and already have diabetes, moderate weight loss can improve insulin action, improve blood pressure and lessen cardiovascular risk, and reduce the need for diabetes medications.

Obesity is not only a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes but also for other non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke). Today, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases related to obesity account for more deaths each year worldwide than AIDS.

IDF and the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) are sending a call to action to governments, health decision makers and business communities to adopt and implement strategies that encourage and facilitate physical activity and a healthy diet.

“The first step to an effective strategy on obesity and diabetes is to recognize the scale of the problem. It is good to see that a number of influential, international organizations are working together on this. We can only hope that this stimulates active steps to counter these problems in more and more countries worldwide", said Professor Rhys Williams, Vice-President of IDF.

“Adopting a healthy lifestyle is first the responsibility of the individual,” said Professor Claude Bouchard, President of IASO, “ However, it is also the responsibility of policy makers worldwide, to ensure safe exercise environments, safe transport to and from school or work by foot and bicycle, and promotion of healthy food such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is already late but policy makers, business communities and individuals can join forces to fight obesity and prevent diabetes”.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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