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The link between obesity and diabetes


Dr Matthew Capehorn

Clinical Director of the National Obesity Forum (NOF)

Question: Is enough being done to stress the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes?
Answer: No. The public needs to be made more aware of the dangers of obesity — and more services are needed to help patients with weight issues.

Alarming statistics from the International Diabetes Federation show that 80 per cent of those with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese when diagnosed.

Yet despite updated draft NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance on obesity published in July, and a warning in September from Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, that it “represents a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs” more needs to be done to stress the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

“There is more of an acceptance and understanding within the health profession and within government that we have to tackle obesity in order to tackle diabetes and other conditions,” says Dr Matthew Capehorn, Clinical Director of the National Obesity Forum (NOF). “Yet two fundamental problems remain. Firstly, not enough resources are being put into the provision of services to help patients who are obese. For example, if a person goes to their GP to ask for help with their weight, there needs to be someone to refer them onto.

“Secondly, there is a lack of appreciation of the obesity-Type 2 diabetes link among the general public. If you are slightly overweight, you probably think of yourself as healthy because you are not unwell. Yet, slowly, your weight can creep up to the point where suddenly you are clinically obese or morbidly obese. These problems could have been prevented earlier if you had asked for help with your weight at an earlier stage.”

Greater awareness

In the UK, the number of obese adults is estimated to rise by a staggering 73 per cent over the next two decades, resulting in more than one million extra cases of Type 2 diabetes and related complications. This time bomb is why Dr Capehorn insists that a greater public health campaign is needed to hammer home the obesity-Type 2 diabetes message. He points to the successful campaigns run by anti-smoking charity ASH to promote awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco. “We need a patient advocacy group for obesity and diabetes, in the same way that ASH is a patient advocacy group for stopping smoking,” he says.

Dr Capehorn recommends that the most successful and sustainable way to lose weight is to eat food you like, but in smaller portions; plus making some changes, such as replacing butter with margarine, or sugary drinks with low-calorie alternatives.

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