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Type 2 diabetes in 10 times more young people than realised

Almost 7,000 children and young adults in England and Wales have type 2 diabetes, thanks to obesity

Louise Prime

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Almost 7,000 children and young adults in England and Wales have type 2 diabetes – almost ten times as many as was recently reported – with much of the rise down to obesity, according to new research from Diabetes UK. The charity is urging the NHS to provide specialist support for children and young people with type 2 diabetes to help them manage the disease and reduce their risk of serious complications, and is calling on the government to act on junk food advertising and promotions and food labelling.

Recent reports had found 715 children and young people under the age of 25 receiving care for type 2 diabetes from paediatric diabetes units in England and Wales. In contrast, Diabetes UK analysed the latest official figures (2016-17) on people younger than 25 being treated in England and Wales for type 2 diabetes, including those treated in primary care – and this revealed that the true figure is almost ten times higher, at 6,836.

The charity pointed out that type 2 diabetes is much more aggressive in children and young people than it is in adults, and serious complications tend to appear much earlier in people diagnosed while young. It is demanding that this is reflected in NHS funding for prevention and care services, with provision of appropriate specialist services to support children and young people with type 2 diabetes to help them manage the condition and reduce the risk of serious complications.

Diabetes UK’s director of policy and campaigns Bridget Turner said: “We must look after those who already have the condition so they can avoid serious complications such as amputations, sight loss, stroke and kidney failure. Children and young people with type 2 diabetes should have access to expert treatment by healthcare professionals trained to manage and research the condition and the challenges it presents.”

Diabetes UK said a large part of the reason for the rise in young diagnoses lies with the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity, although family history and ethnic background also contribute to risk. And, it warned: “With more than a third of children in England (34%) overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, thousands more could be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the next few years.”

The charity is urging the government to put into action the measures in its own obesity plan – to ban junk food advertising on TV to children before 9pm and restrict supermarket price promotions for unhealthy foods. And it is running a Food Upfront campaign, calling on the government to mandate clear and consistent food labelling on all packaged foods and restaurants across the UK.

Bridget Turner commented: “To help shape a future where fewer children develop the condition, we need continued commitment across society to create an environment that reduces obesity. We need to encourage healthy living by providing clear and easy-to-understand nutritional information about the products we are all buying, and protect children from adverts for foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.”

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