The number of deaths from diabetes will soar by 25 per cent in the next decade thanks to Britain’s escalating weight problem, a World Health Organization report will reveal this week.
The extensive study says that 76 per cent of British men over the age of 30 and 69 per cent of women in the same age group, are overweight. This compares to 65 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women in 1995.
It is predicted that the number of overweight people will increase in the next 10 years, fuelling the rise in diabetes which by 2015 will be killing 8,000 people per year more than it does now. There will also be a surge in other chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Dr JoAnne Epping-Jordan, of the WHO’s department of chronic diseases and health promotion, said the estimates were ‘conservative’. ‘The rates of overweight people are rising quite quickly. We are measuring the numbers of people overweight because that is a major risk factor for diabetes and other chronic diseases. We want to highlight that one does not have to be obese – the risks start rising at a Body Mass Index (BMI) as low as 21,’ she said.
BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. The normal range is 18.5 to 24.9, and you are obese if it is over 30. Epping-Jordan pointed to studies from the US that show a woman who is only just overweight has eight times the risk of developing diabetes of someone at an ideal weight. For men the risk is just over double.
Charities in Britain last night urged the government to take notice. ‘These figures confirm our worst fears,’ said Simon O’Neill, director of care and policy at Diabetes UK. ‘We know that Type 2 diabetes is linked to being overweight, so people must be educated to eat a healthy diet and take up regular physical activity or the numbers will continue to rise at an alarming rate.’
The charities Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation estimate that 33,000 people die each year as a result of diabetes. The disease raises the chance of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, circulation problems and nerve, kidney and eye damage. If the WHO’s predictions are realized the number of deaths will rise to more than 41,000 in 2015.
Neville Rigby, director of policy and public affairs at the International Obesity Task Force, said: ‘The biggest proportion of the population affected [by chronic diseases] are in the overweight category. This is the tip of the iceberg.’
He added that BMI is not enough on its own to highlight a risk. A normal BMI but a large waist circumference could be just as dangerous, he said. The ‘apple shape’, he added ‘indicates densely packed visceral fat‘.
Source by: By Anushka Asthana, The Observer, October 2 2005