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.”
New research suggests that people who use marijuana may be more likely to develop prediabetes than those who have never smoked the substance.
A paper published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) assesses a sample of 3,000 people across the United States.
And the findings of the study were that adults currently using marijuana work 65 per cent more likely to suffer from the form of poor sugar control that can lead to Type II diabetes.
Those involved in the study who no longer smoked cannabis, but had used it 100 times or more in their lifetime, also have a significantly higher chance of developing their condition.
This was found to be around 50 per cent greater than those who have never consumed marijuana in any form.
The study ultimately found that “marijuana use was associated with the development and prevalence of prediabetes after adjustment. Specifically, occurrence of prediabetes in middle adulthood was significantly elevated for individuals who reported using marijuana in excess of 100 times by young adulthood.”
However, although there was a high incidence of prediabetes indicated by the study, the research failed to establish a direct link between Type 2 diabetes and marijuana usage.
The authors, led by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Mike Bancks, said: “It is unclear how marijuana use could place an individual at increased risk for prediabetes yet not diabetes.”
Thus, some confusion still reigns over the result of the study.
Data was gleaned from a group of more than 3,000 US citizens, all of whom are collectively participating in a study called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults.
Each of these individuals were aged between 18 and 30 when they were recruited in 1985-86, and have now been participating for 30 years straight.
The percentage of those reporting use of marijuana among the group has declined significantly over the decades in which they have been involved in this huge piece of research.
Although there seems to be little understanding regarding how marijuana could be linked with prediabetes and not tied to diabetes, authors of the paper did at least suggest some possible reasons for this.
The paper proposes that the lack of a link to type 2 diabetes could be because individuals excluded from the study had higher levels of marijuana use and greater potential for development of diabetes.
Additionally, it is possible that marijuana usage may have a larger affect on blood-sugar control in the prediabetic range than for full, type 2 diabetes.
3.2 million UK adults have been diagnosed as being diabetic, with this figure expected to increase to 5 million by 2025.
But Europe’s EMCDDA drug agency suggested in its annual report on drug use in the continent, published in June 2015, that cannabis use among 15 to 34 year olds has halved in the UK over the last 15 years.
It is thought that this could be due to smoking-related legislation.
New diabetes guidance issued by the charity NICE has been welcomed by Diabetes UK.
The advice is aimed at children and young people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and emerges over a decades after the last set of specific guidelines were published by the charity.
NICE has placed particular emphasis on tighter blood glucose targets, and these can only be achieved with appropriate support being put in place, at least in the opinion of the charity.
The long-term target for blood glucose levels has traditionally been set at 58mmols/mol (7.5 per cent), but NICE has now reduced this advisable level significantly.
New guidance published by the charity suggests that in order to avoid long-term risk of developing diabetes, young people should maintain a blood glucose level beneath 48 mmols/mol (6.5 per cent).
Research indicates that tighter control over blood glucose will reduce the risk of developing serious diabetes-related complications such as blindness, amputation and strokes. And the new glucose guidelines will be of significant value in ensuring young people avoid these debilitating conditions in later life.
But the charity has warned that the conduct of the government over the next few years will be vital to implementing its strategy effectively.
NICR has particularly underlined the need for clinics to be armed with satisfactory tools to provide support to young patients and their families.
Speaking on the new guidelines, Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, was keen to emphasise that support was key to adhering to the vision of the charity: “Meeting the new blood glucose targets can bring about inherent health benefits. However, the government needs to ensure that appropriate support is available to help children and their families to achieve this.
“While the technology, such as pumps and increased access to continuous blood glucose monitors, is available to support children with Type 1 diabetes reach blood glucose targets, it is critical that they receive the emotional support, such as improved access to specialist psychological care, they and their families need to feel empowered to achieve these new targets.
Young also pointed out the current failures of diabetes-related policy: “We know that the majority of children with Type 1 diabetes already struggle to achieve current blood glucose targets with the most recent figures revealing that less than one in five manage this.”
The Western world has experienced something of a diabetes epidemic in recent years, with increased sugar consumption and sedentary lifestyles considered to be two key factors in the phenomenon.
Just weeks ago, an NHS report indicates that a lack of physical activity is leading to a new “sofa generation” at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
It is already estimated that based on current trends, 5 million Britons will have Type 2 diabetes alone by 2025.