Drinking more than two sugary or artificially sweetened soft drinks per day greatly increases the risk of diabetes, according to newly published research from Sweden.
Scientists examined sweetened drink consumption, while assessing people with an uncommon form of diabetes known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).
LADA has features of type 1 diabetes, where the body’s own immune cells destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
But unlike type 1 diabetes, which normally develops in childhood, in LADA the cell destruction is much slower.
Drinking more than two sweetened drinks per day was linked with being roughly twice as likely to have diabetes.
However, the nature of the experiment means that this study cannot prove that sweetened drinks alone have directly caused these conditions.
There is nonetheless and interesting and informative correlation asserted by the Swedish researchers.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and other institutions in Sweden and Finland.
Funding was provided by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, AFA Insurance and the Swedish Diabetes Association.
The European Journal of Endocrinology published the work, and it is freely available online.
Researchers conclude that “high intake of sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of LADA. The observed relationship resembled that with type 2 diabetes, suggesting common pathways possibly involving insulin resistance”.
However, high BMI and other poor lifestyle choices were also linked with the conditions discovered in the study.
The findings generally suggest that this rare form of diabetes shares characteristics with the generally better understood type 2.
Certainly the consumption of sugary drinks is something that the government has attempted to legislate against, with the introduction of a sugar tax.
However, many consider this pointless, as it fails to address the problem directly, and has also failed previously in other nations.
Meanwhile, one expert from the University of Cambridge also considers another possibility that increased drink consumption could be due to increased thirst before diabetes is diagnosed.
While the researchers attempted to take account of consumption of water and other drinks as a general marker of thirst, the design means this observation cannot be discounted.
Since 1996, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has risen from 1.4 million to 3.5 million.
Taking into account the number of people likely to be living with undiagnosed diabetes, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK is over 4 million.
Diabetes prevalence in the UK is estimated to rise to 5 million by 2025.
Type 2 diabetes in particular has been growing at the particularly high rate and is now one of the world’s most common long-term health conditions.
The cost to the NHS of prescribing drugs for diabetes has soared to almost £1 billion annually, as the number of people diagnosed with the disease has risen sharply alongside the surge in obesity.
£956.7m was spent by NHS England on prescribed diabetes drugs last year; representing 10.6% of the cost of all prescriptions issued by NHS primary care services in 2015/16.
More is now spent on medication for type 1 and type 2 diabetes than for any other ailment.
The number of diabetics across the UK as a whole has recently risen to more than four million and has increased by 65% over the last 10 years.
Diabetes is thought to cost the NHS about £10 billion, once the cost of treatment is included.
Last year a total of 49.7m items were prescribed for diabetes, compared to 27.1m a decade years earlier.
90% of diabetics have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, with lifestyle factors clearly playing a massive role in this epidemic.
90% of adults with type 2 diabetes aged 16-54 years are either overweight or obese.
Helen Donovan, the Royal College of Nursing’s health professional lead, stated that cuts to nursing support for diabetics meant that some patients were not getting the help they needed to manage their illness.
“These stark figures show the need for a greater focus on preventing type 2 diabetes. Encouraging healthier lifestyles would not only save the NHS money, it would improve countless lives. This is bad for the health service’s finances but more importantly it can be devastating for patients.”
NHS Digital’s findings show that the West Midlands is the region of England with the highest proportion of people over the age of 17 who are diabetic.
The south central area has the lowest prevalence rate, at 5.6%.
And the east London borough of Newham spends proportionately more of its drugs budget than anywhere else in England on diabetes medication, at 17.9%.
North Tyneside spends the lowest, at 7.4%.
Meanwhile, the spend on medication differed widely in different parts of England.
The cost per patient treated was highest in Warwickshire North, at £415 a head, and lowest in Northumberland (£239).
62% of adults were overweight or obese in England in 2012, while 6% of people aged 17 years or older had diagnosed diabetes in England in 2013.
In England, 12.4% of people aged 18 years and over with obesity have diagnosed diabetes; five times that of people with a healthy weight.
Men with a raised waist circumference are five times more likely to have been diagnosed diabetes than those without a raised waist circumference; women are over three times more likely.
Clearly tackling obesity can play a massive role in the fight against diabetes, yet results for 2014 showed that 61.7% of adults were overweight or obese (65.3% of men and 58.1% of women).
New research into diabetes has offered hope for people suffering with the particularly virulent type one condition.
Scientists have discovered that many of the insulin-producing cells in type one diabetics are in fact not dead as was previously presumed.
It has been commonly believed that this is the case, but researchers associated with Exeter University Medical School have found that the cells in type one diabetics are merely dormant.
Researchers had already proved that the number of insulin producing cells in people suffering from type one diabetes can drop by as much as 90%.
Yet the research from Exeter University suggests that the situation in diabetics is not as serious as presumed, and that it may be more possible to address the serious condition than had otherwise been believed.
Around 400,000 people have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Britain, and most did not develop the disease until after the age of six.
Commenting on the issue, Professor Noel Morgan of Exeter University Medical School, was positive about the potential of this discovery, characterising it as a genuine breakthrough in understanding of the illness.
“This is incredibly exciting, and could open the doors to new treatments for young people who develop diabetes. It was previously thought that teenagers with type 1 diabetes had lost around 90 per cent of their beta cells but, by looking in their pancreas, we have discovered that this is not true. In fact, those diagnosed in their teens still have many beta cells left – this suggests that the cells are dormant, but not dead. If we can find a way to reactivate these cells so that they resume insulin release, we may be able to slow or even reverse progression of this terrible disease.”
British researchers collaborating with a team of scientists from the University of Oslo, examining 400 pancreas samples from a wide variety of people suffering with type one diabetes.
Now that it has been established that the insulin producing cells in diabetics are not fully lost, and instead merely inactive, the process of attempting to reactivate these cells can now begin.
Of course, working out how to achieve this will be a massive challenge, as acknowledged by the aforementioned Morgan.
“Quite simply, and sadly, I don’t know [if this can be achieved]. However there is evidence that this can happen when the (cells) are kept outside the body for a few days, so understanding how to achieve this is not a complete pipe dream.”
Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, was equally positive about the findings.
“A child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five faces up to 19,000 insulin injections and 50,000 finger-prick blood tests before they reach the age of 18. But this research can bring us closer to the day we find the cure.”
Since 1996, the number of people living with diabetes has more than doubled.
If nothing changes, it is estimated that over five million people in the UK will have diabetes by 2025.
An audit of the NHS has indicated that fewer diabetics are receiving critical health checks.
Every diabetic is recommended to undergo eight such checks every year.
Yet the NHS is failing to deliver this number in many cases, and this is making people suffering with diabetes more vulnerable to a deterioration in their condition.
The study, conducted by the NHS’ health and social care information centre (HSCIC), found that the number of tests being carried out has fallen to its lowest level since records began six years ago.
This should be considered particularly serious considering the increased awareness of the health risks associated with diabetes, and the epidemic that is now prevalent in the United Kingdom.
Indeed, the estimated cost of diabetes to the NHS is £10 billion annually.
And with diabetics failing to receive sufficient support from the NHS, the study concludes that there are rising number of people in the UK at risk of suffering from a heart attack, stroke or limb amputation due to diabetes.
Fewer than two in five (38.7%) of type 1 diabetics underwent all of the eight tests during 2014-15 recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), while fewer than three in five (58.7%) of those with type 2 did so.
Both of these figures represent a diminution from last year.
Commenting on the figures, Chris Askew, the chief executive of Diabetes UK, suggesting that they painted a worrying picture of the way that diabetes was being treated in Britain.
In particular, Askew suggested that the results for under-40s were “deeply worrying” considering the decline in condition that can result if it is not spotted at an early age.
“It is deeply worrying that such a low percentage of younger people with diabetes are receiving all eight of the vital care processes. Urgent action must be taken to ensure that younger people too are given the best chances of good health and don’t continue to be left behind.”
The study discovered that the checking of BMI had fallen to its lowest level ever, which was also the case for urine albumin tests.
This latter technique is critical in identifying potentially fatal kidney disease.
Askew believes that this failing it should be considered especially serious.
“Not getting this check means people are less likely to find out they have kidney disease until it has already developed into an extremely serious health issue. Latest figures show that nearly 11,000 people in 2012-13 had renal replacement therapy, including dialysis and kidney transplants, as a result of their diabetes. This is a life-threatening complication, which has significant cost implications for the NHS as well as exacting a devastating toll on people’s lives.”
Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat of our times and an urgent public health issue.
Since 1996, the number of people living with diabetes has more than doubled.
If present trends continue, it is estimated that over five million people in the UK will have diabetes in the foreseeable future.
Researchers at MIT believe that they’ve made a major breakthrough in responding to the diabetes epidemic.
Building on work that has been carried out previously at Harvard University, scientists believe that they may have found a cure for Type 1 diabetes, or at least a potentially fertile avenue of investigation.
A team working at the institution associated with technology demonstrated that they can switch off the diabetes disease for six months in animals; a period that would equate to several years in humans.
Back in 2014, researchers at Harvard University discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as similarly significant as the discovery of antibiotics.
Now the MIT scientists have proven that implanting cells into mice has the potential to completely restore insulin functions.
Julia Greenstein of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or JDRF, the type 1 diabetes research charity, stated that “these treatments aim to effectively establish long-term insulin independence and eliminate the daily burden of managing the disease for months, possibly years, at a time.”
Although it is very early days in the research of this new technique, ultimately the development of it could result in the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain who have to cope with Type 1 diabetes.
It is believed that human trials maybe just a few years away.
Dr Daniel Anderson, professor of applied biology at MIT, was effusive about the discovery.
“We are excited by these results, and are working hard to advance this technology to the clinic. These results lay the groundwork for future human studies using these formulations with the goal of achieving long-term replacement therapy for Type 1 diabetes. We believe (the cells) have the potential to provide insulin independence for patients suffering from this disease.”
Anderson also outlined the full potential of this technique, particularly providing details on one especially exciting aspect of the research.
“It has the potential to provide diabetics with a new pancreas that is protected from the immune system, which would allow them to control their blood sugar without taking drugs. That’s the dream.”
Although only 10% of diabetes is Type 1, it is particularly common among children, and is the most debilitating form of the condition.
While effective treatment of diabetes can ensure a long life and a relatively unencumbered standard of living for sufferers, it had previously been impossible to reverse the condition.
If it were possible to provide sufferers in the UK with the ability to be insulin independent, this would be a massive step forward for treatment of diabetes.
There are about 35,000 children and young people with diabetes, under the age of 19, in the UK, and about 96% of these have Type 1.
A record conducted by Christian charity Bread for the World suggests that hunger and malnutrition is having a massively negative economic impact in the United States.
These two debilitating conditions reportedly cost the United States in the region of $160 billion per annum.
This figure can be attributed to the treatment of chronic health conditions.
The report outlines the dire consequences of food insecurity among the poorest American families, and paints a picture of a society in serious decline.
This latest report is suggested to be the first to ever apportion a significant share of the long-term cost of illnesses such as diabetes to a deficit of affordable, nutritious food.
It should be emphasised that access to such foodstuffs in the United States is clearly an economic issue, as the United States actually produces a surplus of food annually.
In 2010, exports of agricultural products in the United States were worth some $116 billion.
The diabetes epidemic in the US has already claimed millions of sufferers, and shows few signs of abating.
In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 per cent of the United States population, had diabetes.
Diabetes remained the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, mirroring a general trend in the Western world for this blood sugar condition to be expanding rapidly in the population.
Government statistics suggest that between 2008 and 2014 at least 48.1 million people a year in the United States were classed as “food insecure”. This means that they could not always afford to eat balanced meals, including 19.2 per cent of all households with children.
In addition, many American households are reliant on food stamps, with around 50 million people in the US, approximately 20 per cent of the population, currently in receipt of this federal government programme.
Anecdotal and survey-based evidence suggests that people in receipt of this form of government support tend to have a less nutritious diet than average.
There is thus a massive link between economic demographics and poor nutrition.
The study found that food insecurity increases by nearly 50 per cent the chances of becoming a “high cost user of healthcare services” within five years.
Meanwhile, the cost of healthcare in the United States is increasing rapidly, already accounting for almost one-quarter of all federal government spending.
It is suggested that increasing the amount of money spent on food assistance would turn out to be cost-effective, considering that this currently represents just three per cent of overall expenditure.
However, it must be said that there are huge vested interests that simply do not wish for this situation to change.
Commenting on the issue, Rev David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, outlined the dire situation that many families and individuals face in the United States.
“Nowhere are the hidden costs of hunger and food insecurity greater than in health care. Access to nutritious food is essential to healthy growth and development, and can prevent the need for costly medical care. Many chronic diseases – the main causes of poor health as well as the main drivers of healthcare costs – are related to diet.”
Figures released by the British Heart Foundation suggest that the number of UK adults living with diabetes has risen by more than 65 per cent in the last decade alone.
The organisation analysed GP data, and found that 3.5 million people were diagnosed with diabetes between 2014 and 2015.
By comparison, around 2 million people had been diagnosed with the condition back in 2004 and 2005.
It is estimated from the figures that people living with Type 2 diabetes, associated with unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, could be in excess of 3 million.
These latest figures are indicative of the diabetes academic that has been sweeping the Western world.
Although there are numerous factors contributing to this issue, not least sedentary lifestyles, the vast amount of sugar being consumed is considered to be a major contributor.
Processed food often contains large amounts of added sugar, with many people consuming quantities of which they are simply not aware.
Commenting on the research carried out by the British Heart Foundation, Doctor Richard Cubbon said: “We are currently unable to reverse blood vessel damage caused by diabetes. We’re studying a protein which could be involved in blood vessel repair, which could lead to new drugs that help prevent the deadly heart attacks and strokes associated with diabetes.”
The figures are a worrying precedent of the extent of the diabetes problem in the UK.
Ten years ago, it was considered extremely serious that in the region of 2 million people in Britain had been diagnosed with the condition.
At that time, a World Health Organisation report indicated that deaths due to diabetes in Britain could be expected to increase 25 per cent in the next decade.
In reality, this has turned out to be a gross under estimation, which suggests that the scale of the problem may accelerate still further in the future.
Confirming this trend, Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “The number of people with diabetes is rising at an alarming rate and every year there are more than 20,000 people who die tragically young as a result of the condition. Given the scale and the seriousness of the condition, it is vital that there is more research into better treatment and, ultimately, into finding a cure.”
Askew also mused on the scale of the problem.
“Diabetes remains one of the biggest health challenges of our time. We must protect the health of the nation by taking urgent steps to get to grips with it or we will continue to see more and more people dying before their time.”