Steep Rise in Prediabetes in UK: 1 in 3 Adults Now Affected

Peter Russell

June 10, 2014

New research has identified a significant increase in the number of people in England who have prediabetes, with 1 in 3 adults now affected and those from poorer backgrounds found to be particularly at risk.

Prediabetes rates rose from around 12% in 2003 to around 35% in 2011, according to the new study, published online June 9 in BMJ Open, that the authors say is the first report of the prevalence of prediabetes in England.

"The rapid rise was exceptionally surprising and suggests that if something doesn't happen, there is going to be a huge increase in the prevalence of diabetes," says lead author Arch G. Mainous III, PhD, from the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The Florida researchers worked with a team from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, and warn that only major changes in diet, lifestyle, and medication can prevent many more people getting diabetes in the future.

Commenting on the findings in a statement, Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, says: "This study is further evidence that there is an increasing number of people who are developing prediabetes."

"Having high enough blood glucose levels to be classified as having prediabetes leaves people at a significantly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We need to make sure those at high risk are made aware of this so that they can get the advice and support they need to make the lifestyle changes that can help reduce this.

"In fact, up to 80% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be avoided or delayed by making these kinds of changes," she noted.

Rise in Prediabetes Cases Steeper in England Than in the United States

The researchers analyzed data collected in 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2011 by the Health Survey for England. They say that England's prediabetes rates are similar to those in the United States, where 36% are estimated to have the condition.

But although England's prediabetes rates are now similar to those in the United States, the proportion of people with the condition has risen more steeply over a similar time period.

The authors say that while the exact cause for the increase is unknown, it may be linked to increases in obesity in England in the late 1990s.

While current hopes for containing the rise in diabetes are pinned on voluntary codes of practice adopted by the food industry, this may not be enough to ward off a diabetes epidemic, they caution, noting that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is at an all-time high in England.

All adults in England aged 40 to 74 are invited to take part in a health assessment, called the National Health Service Health Check, which aims to identify those at risk for serious but potentially avoidable conditions, such as diabetes.

"But at the moment not everyone who is eligible for this check is getting one, and we need this to change," Ms. Young noted.

Some of the at-risk population may already be receiving treatment for hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, she added, "but not all will, and we are concerned that if people are being identified as being at high risk or even having prediabetes, they may not be getting all of the support they need for their health to be managed effectively, including advice on weight reduction, activity, and risk-reducing diet."

The authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.

BMJ Open. 2014;4:e005002. Article

Adapted from WebMD UK Health News

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