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Sweet life/hot topic
more than 145,000 new cases of mainly
type 2 diabetes were diagnosed in the past
‘Diabetes UK has recently warned
year, bringing the total number of people with
that an estimated 7 million people,
diabetes in the UK to 2.6 million.
Diabetes UK has recently warned that an
about 15 per cent of the population,
estimated 7 million people – about 15 per cent
of the population – have ‘prediabetes’. People
have prediabetes’
with prediabetes – also known as impaired
glucose regulation (IGR) – have blood glucose management programmes, stopping smoking, salt, fat and additives, and selling them
levels higher than normal, but not high enough and physical activity programmes. as snacks, drinks or ready meals. It’s also
to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Recent ‘Health checks will undoubtedly pick up harder to fit physical activity into modern
research has shown prediabetes may already undiagnosed diabetes,’ says GP Ayan Panja. jobs and lifestyles, and all too easy to choose
be causing long-term damage to the body, ‘There are probably half a million such cases no-effort options like escalators instead of
especially the heart and circulatory system. in the UK. The focus should be on attention stairs. Active choices like cycling or walking
People with the condition have up to 15 times to lifestyle factors – diet and regular exercise. are made harder because of the ‘car is king’
the normal risk of developing type 2. Diabetes takes years to develop and so people culture, and the layout of our roads means
with large waistlines, a family history of the that for many they are inconvenient and
Is prediabetes the key? condition, high BMI or at risk through their often dangerous.
The good news is that prediabetes can often ethnicity, ought to be screened as a priority to So what can be done to make it easier for
be reversed simply through losing even just prevent or delay onset of the condition.’ us to keep healthy? Better food labelling is
a moderate amount of weight, adopting a Diabetes UK has welcomed the NHS high on the wishlist of many campaigners.
healthy, balanced diet, and increasing physical Health Checks, but says the programme in The Food Standards Agency recommends the
activity levels. ‘Identifying and educating its present form doesn’t go far enough. The ‘traffic light’ labelling scheme, where foods
people with prediabetes is vital as it’s not charity wants similar screening programmes are labelled red, amber or green for their fat,
too late for many to make healthy lifestyle put in place for the rest of the UK too. The saturated fat, sugar and salt content.
changes, reverse the condition completely checks should not be limited to 40 to 74 The traffic light system is widely
and reduce their risk of developing type 2 year-olds but should be extended to younger acknowledged as the easiest labelling method
diabetes,’ says Diabetes UK chief executive age groups too, it says – especially for Black, for consumers to understand and act on, and
Douglas Smallwood. South Asian and other minority ethnic groups is backed by organisations including the
Clearly, effective action at this stage would after the age of 25, as these groups are at British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, the
be one way of stemming the rise in diabetes increased risk. It wants to see testing for British Dietetic Association and the Royal
numbers. Diabetes UK wants prediabetes diabetes wherever the opportunity presents, College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Yet
to be better explained by healthcare including in workplaces. it’s being opposed by some large food
professionals, so that people understand There is currently no cure for type 2 manufacturers and supermarkets, who don’t
how serious it is. People who are found to diabetes, so prevention is the key to halting want to see top-selling brands covered with
have prediabetes need to be told about the the epidemic. ‘We need to stop people before ‘red light’ symbols that might deter consumers.
potential risk and shown how they can stop they start the diabetes journey,’ says the IDF’s Many big names choose to ignore Food
their condition from progressing to diabetes. Professor Mbanya. But he acknowledges Standards Agency recommendations and
This doesn’t always happen at present. that this will be a huge challenge. The rise in opt for the blander labelling scheme that
On the principle that prevention is better diabetes is being fuelled by powerful social, expresses the content of one serving as a
than cure, the Department of Health is rolling cultural and economic forces that may be too percentage of the guideline daily amount for
out the NHS Health Checks programme, big to fight. different nutrients.
which started in England only in April 2009. Another important step for the UK would
People aged 40 to 74 will be invited for a free More than willpower be improved public facilities for sports
health check at their GP surgery to assess Of course, it’s up to individuals to take and physical activity, which are still poor
their risk of diseases such as coronary heart responsibility for their own actions. But compared with some other countries.
disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. researchers studying the causes of obesity are The IDF insists that action must be taken,
The health checks will consist of increasingly of the opinion that what’s been and has called on governments to make sure
questions about health and diet, exercise termed the ‘obesogenic’ environment is now that healthy life choices be made available
habits and family medical history, height so powerful that for most of us, individual and affordable, and to do their utmost to help
and weight measurements, a blood test willpower isn’t enough. prevent diabetes and other so-called lifestyle
for cholesterol and in some cases for The unhealthy lifestyle is big money. diseases. ‘It will not be easy,’ says Professor
glucose levels. Each person will then get a Profit margins on simple fresh foods are low Mbanya, ‘but it is a battle that we will all have
personal assessment setting out their level compared with the mark-ups that can be to fight. Our choice is simple. Either we spend
of risk and what they can do to reduce it. charged by taking cheap ingredients, giving all our time mopping the floor, or we get up
Recommendations might include weight them a moreish taste with lashings of sugar, and turn off the tap.’ n
Sweet Magazine 9
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