Type 2 diabetes rise in under-40s, says Cardiff research

Research by Cardiff University shows those with the condition has gone up by 270%

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People under 40 are being warned to watch their weight as researchers find a sharp rise in the number with type 2 diabetes.

Cardiff University found the incidence trebled in the UK population between 1991 and 2010, but rose nearly ten-fold among under-40s.

They now account for 12% of all newly diagnosed cases, up from 5%.

"Essentially we are a nation of lazy porkers," research leader Prof Craig Currie told BBC Radio Five live.

"As a consequence at a very young age we are getting a disease that later will lead to a number of severe complications potentially.

"You have got to have lived on Mars if you don't realise that being fat is going to cause you a few problems."

The team from the university's school of medicine said it was the most worrying element of a rise in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the UK population as a whole.

In 1991, there were 169 cases per 100,000 people, rising to 515 in 2010.

Among under-40s, the incidence rose from 15 to 138 cases per 100,000 people.

Experts say type 2 diabetes can bring greater health issues in later life as people have longer to develop associated problems, such as blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

Prof Currie said people would lose a significant number of years off their life due to poor health and, as a result, they would "cost a fortune" to the NHS.

"This will undoubtedly place an increasing burden on healthcare resources and result in poorer quality of life, he said.

"If you are a porker when you are young and you get diabetes you are storing up bother."


  • People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. No-one knows exactly what causes it, but it is not to do with being overweight and it is not currently preventable. It usually affects children or young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses, a healthy diet and regular physical activity.
  • People with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce does not work properly (known as insulin resistance). They might get diabetes because of their family history, age and ethnic background. They are also more likely to get type 2 diabetes if they are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity.

Prof Currie said the research shows an increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.

He said the findings supported theories of obesity, diet and family history being key factors.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body's cells do not react to insulin.

It is far more common than type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the body does not produce any insulin. In the UK, about 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

The study tracked patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 1991 and 2010. Patients were then grouped into five-year intervals by year of diagnosis and age at diagnosis to examine trends over time.

In November Conservative Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee, a practising GP, told the Institute for Economic Affairs that those with medical conditions caused by their lifestyle may have to make a contribution to their healthcare costs in the future.

Start Quote

This is an important study which highlights the continued rise of type 2 diabetes as a major public health challenge for the UK”

End Quote Prof Richard Donnelly Editor, Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism

On Friday, he reiterated the message on BBC Radio Five live, saying: "It is not an easy message for people to hear but basically our lifestyles are causing these conditions to increase.

"If you've got the money to pay for the food, you've got the money to pay for the drugs."

Dai Williams, national director of Diabetes UK Cymru, said the type 2 disease used to be common among elderly people but today's "obesity crisis" had led to it affecting those of a younger age.

"At the moment diabetes is costing the NHS in Wales over half a billion pounds a year - that's an astronomically large amount of money really," he told BBC Radio Wales.

He urged more action to educate people about the health problems associated with the obesity "epidemic" and the dangers of a poor diet.

The study was published in the journal of Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism.

Its editor Prof Richard Donnelly said: "This is an important study which highlights the continued rise of type 2 diabetes as a major public health challenge for the UK."

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