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Obesity epidemic fuels worrying diabetes trends

4 July 2006

Obesity epidemic fuels worrying diabetes trends

The obesity epidemic is behind a disturbing rise in diabetes in New Zealand, with this age-related disease now increasingly hitting teenagers.

Murray Tilyard, Professor of General Practice at Otago University and Executive Director of South Link Health, says Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common and harder to treat due to the rise in obesity.

“Of the patients enrolled at South Link Health, we have 16,000 with Type 2 diabetes and 94% of those people are obese. With medication, we can see improvements in their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and even their blood sugar levels. But obesity is the underlying problem and if this doesn’t change, then in terms of treatment our hands are tied.”

Murray Tilyard’s comments come as a new resource kit for Type 2 diabetes is being launched in Bluff today. The kit, developed by PHARMAC with the support of Diabetes New Zealand, provides tools for health professionals and people with diabetes to use together to manage this disease.

Type 2 diabetes affects 90% of the estimated 115,000 diabetic New Zealanders. In this form of the disease people produce insulin, which is essential in transporting glucose to cells for energy, but it does not work properly. Obesity is almost always the cause of Type 2 diabetes.

Murray Tilyard says the impact of obesity on Type 2 diabetes is seen nationwide. “It is one of the top five health problems in the country. But obese people who develop Type 2 diabetes could really help themselves by losing weight. This disease is preventable and to see so many thousands of New Zealanders struck down by it is really frustrating.”

He says one of the most worrying trends driven by the obesity epidemic is the number of teenagers now suffering from Type 2 diabetes. “Type 2 diabetes was an age-related obesity problem that affected people in their 50s and 60s, but now we are seeing more and more overweight teenagers with this disease.”

He says diabetes is a huge burden on the individual, families and society. “Diabetes is a dreadful disease that can lead to heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and loss of sexual functioning for males.”

Murray Tilyard says the new kit is particularly valuable as the resources are designed to empower people with Type 2 diabetes to take responsibility for changing their lifestyle and managing this disease.

“Health professionals have effective treatments to help with Type 2 diabetes, but for many people the cure is in their own hands. We need to encourage people to be responsible for their own health.”


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