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Diabetes And Obesity: Urgent Action Needed

Diabetes And Obesity: Urgent Action Needed

URGENT action is needed to avert a global public health crisis, a new report from international diabetes and obesity organisations warns today.

For the first time leading global obesity and diabetes organisations have come together to provide recommendations for stemming the twin epidemics which threaten to explode in the coming decade. Obesity is a major modifiable risk factor for one type of diabetes (type 2 diabetes). Diabetes and Obesity: Time to Act, the new report launched at the 13th European Congress on Obesity in Prague, states that action is required from individuals, healthcare professionals, industry and policy makers.

Strategies must encourage and facilitate physical activity and a healthy diet, and control access to energy dense foods and drinks. Health promotion, particularly in relation to diet, weight control and physical activity, can play a part but it is not sufficient on its own. In particular for our children, policies and legislation need to ensure safe play outdoors, safe transport to and from school by foot and bicycle, and protection from highly influential advertising, which promotes inappropriate (and unnecessary) consumption of energy dense food and drink.

Already one in three Americans born today is predicted to develop diabetes as a consequence of obesity. Diabetes alone currently affects 194 million people worldwide and IDF figures predict that this will increase to 333 million by 2025, with a massive burden in developing countries. However, “the rising levels of obesity worldwide are likely to drive the prevalence of diabetes even higher than present forecasts”, stressed Professor Pierre Lefèbvre, President of IDF.

Obesity and overweight now often affects an alarming 50-65% of a nation’s population not only in the USA, Europe, and Australia, but also in lower to moderate income countries such as Mexico, Egypt, and the black population of South Africa. In the United States alone, approximately 61% of adults in the 20-74 years age range are now considered overweight or obese. In Europe, the United Kingdom has demonstrated the most rapid increase in obesity alone, which if it continues at the rate of the past 20 years, could double from its 2000 level to more than 40% of the population being obese by 2025.

Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, is not only a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes but also for other non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke). Today, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases related to obesity account for more deaths each year worldwide than AIDS. If ethnic differences for defining obesity are taken into account, then recent estimates of the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) suggest that up to 1.7 billion of the world’s population are already at a heightened risk of weight-related non-communicable diseases.

It is estimated that at least half of all diabetes cases would be eliminated if weight gain could be prevented. Particularly worrying are the rates of overweight and obesity in children, due to progressive inactivity and increases in the energy density of the diets of almost all countries over the last 20 years. In the United States, the prevalence of excess weight and obesity in adolescents has nearly tripled in the past two decades, reaching 14% of those aged 12 to 19 years in 1999. In other developed and increasingly in developing countries too, the prevalence of excess weight and obesity in children is rising yearly. This gives a grim forecast for the next generation, predicting earlier deaths and disability from the health consequences of both excess weight and diabetes.

“Governments and business communities have a vital role to play in fighting the current ‘obesogenic’ environment”, said Professor Claude Bouchard, President of the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO). “It is already late but a global effort can transform diets and restore physical activity into our daily lives. It is time to act now”.

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