Rates of prediabetes have risen sharply in England, and without intervention, the nation may experience a steep increase in diabetes in the coming years, according to University of Florida researchers working with the University of Leicester in England.
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Type 2 Diabetes alone is costly enough in terms of its physical health consequences and their costs - both to the affected individuals and society.
In addition, however, the 'Metabolic Syndrome' that defines 'Prediabetes' is also strongly associated with a number of mental health conditions that are potentially even more devastating - including both dementia and schizophrenia.
The authors rightly identify their findings as (yet another) clear signal that action is needed to change the diet and lifestyle factors driving this dramatic recent increase in 'Prediabetes'. So what needs to be done?
One dietary factor clearly implicated in Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes is excessive sugar consumption. Another - which appears to interact with this to magnify the resulting physical and mental symptoms, is Omega-3 deficiency.
Both of these dietary problems are widespread - and their links with mental health, and the implications for policy and practice, will be debated at the upcoming FAB Conference on 'Sugar, Fat, Food and Addiction', featuring a world-class speaker line-up including Professor Robert Lustig and Captain Joe Hibbeln from the US as well as several leading UK researchers, professionals and public health experts.
For the study, researchers analyzed data collected in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011 by the Health Survey for England. Sponsored by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care and the Department of Health, this population-based survey combines questionnaires with physical measurements and blood tests. The researchers classified survey participants as having prediabetes if they had a blood glucose level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, which the American Diabetes Association considers prediabetes, and if they indicated they had not previously been diagnosed with diabetes.
The 2011 data showed that 35 percent of English adults and more than 50 percent of adults age 40 and older who were overweight had prediabetes. People with lower socioeconomic status were at substantial risk for having prediabetes.
England's prediabetes rates are similar to those in the United States, where 36 percent of adults are estimated to have the condition, but England's rates climbed more steeply than the United States' over a similar time period. While the exact cause for the rapid rise is unknown, it may be linked to increases in obesity in England in the late 1990s. Metabolic changes associated with weight gain may take several years to develop.
"The study is an important signal that we need to take action to improve our diet and lifestyles," said study co-author Richard Baker, M.D., a professor of quality in healthcare at the University of Leicester department of health sciences. "If we don't, many people will have less healthy, shorter lives."