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Latest figures show an alarming rise in T2DM in the under 40’s and highlight a failing food industry.

British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT)

4 min read Partner content

Body weight, inactivity, and social deprivation amongst the contributing factors.

Latest figures from Diabetes UK reveal that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has topped 5 million for the first time1. 90% of those with diagnosis have Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). More alarmingly is the rise in diagnoses in the under forty age group, highlighting the increasingly younger demographic of the disease.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor on Diabetes with NHS England and co-author of the national Diabetes GIRFT report, attributes this rise to earlier and better diagnosis of T2DM, paired with increasing deprivation across the UK making healthy food unaffordable. Widening health inequalities are being fuelled by a food industry dominated by 10 top retailers holding a combined 95% of the retail market share2. These supermarkets act as the gatekeepers between manufacturers and consumers and hold considerable power over the foods people can afford to eat. The food that generates these supermarkets the most profit is ultra-processed highly palatable, long shelf life, nutrient-poor products that are high in empty calories, sugar, salt and fat (HFSS). Namely, the very foods associated with diet-induced metabolic dysregulation and T2DM3.

Access to healthy and affordable food is a recurring theme in non-communicable disease and reflects the governments continued inaction on tackling the UK’s junk food culture. Over the past two years, BANT has routinely spoken out about the health risks of ultra-processed foods and drinks, called on the government to improve their obesity strategy, expressed regret at the poor DEFRA white paper response to the National Food Strategy, and most recently expressed support for Henry Dimbleby’s criticism of government and their failure to tackle the worsening obesity crisis or regulate the Food Industry.

BANT agrees with Professor Partha Kar that tackling T2DM requires greater focus at the pre-diabetic phase, as well as advocating for earlier nutrition prevention to tackle modifiable diet and lifestyle risk factors involved in T2DM progression. Results from the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NDPP) indicate that the risk of Diabetes progression was 20% lower in people with pre-diabetes referred to NDPP when compared to similar patients not referred to NDPP. The principal mechanisms involved in this risk reduction were weight loss, with people who attended the NDPP losing on average -2.3 kg, and a significant reduction in HbA1c - the average blood sugar levels for the previous two to three months – of 1.26 mmol/mol4. The success of the programme is, however, undermined by the limited access to it, presenting an opportunity for greater collaboration with PSA accredited practitioners, such as the network of 3,500 BANT nutrition practitioners currently working outside the NHS. BANT practitioners are clinically trained and habitually support clients with diet, weight management and blood sugar control, making them ideally placed to help bridge this NHS resource shortfall. Furthermore, BANT members are available to support group work at surgeries and health centres to provide more widespread support for T2DM prevention through educational talks and information sessions on healthy diet and lifestyle. More information on how BANT members can support General Practitioners can be found here.

BANT CEO, Satu Jackson, and Director, Isabel Hemmings, will be hosting a dedicated diabetes workshop at the upcoming Integrative and Personalised Medicine 23 Conference to share results from one such successful case study : Nutritional Therapy - using nutrition and lifestyle medicine recommendations to help prevent type 2 diabetes5.

T2DM is a ticking timebomb with 63.5% of adults in England overweight or living with obesity 6. The numbers published by Diabetes UK are set to worsen unless the government act on the leading cause of diet-induced illness – the food industry.


References

1https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/number-people-living-diabetes-uk-tops-5-million-first-time

2https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/health/why-retailers-are-leanwashing-on-sugar-reduction/678060.article

3Pan, F.; Wang, Z.; Wang, H.; Zhang, J.; Su, C.; Jia, X.; Du, W.; Jiang, H.; Li, W.; Wang, L.; Hao, L.; Zhang, B.; Ding, G. Association between Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Metabolic Syndrome among Adults in China—Results from the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Nutrients 2023, 15, 752. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15030752 

4https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/nhs-programme-linked-to-20-reduction-in-risk-of-diabetes/

5https://www.ipmcongress.com/2023-workshop-programme/nutritional-therapy-using-nutrition-and-lifestyle-medicine-recommendations-to-prevent-type-2-diabetes

6https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/health/diet-and-exercise/overweight-adults/latest

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