Fresh figures have revealed that the number of people suffering from diabetes in the UK is snowballing with almost 150,000 new cases in the last 12 months alone, Diabetes UK has warned.

The data, taken from GP practices, shows that more than 2.6 million people across the country now have the condition – of which diabetes type II accounts for 90% - and that more than 5.2 million are classed as obese, posing a massive strain on the National Health Service’s already stretched resources.

Furthermore, it is estimated that diabetes type II is present but undiagnosed in as many as half a million people in the UK alone, and as the condition can remain undetected for up to 10 years a significant number of these will have already developed associated complications at time of diagnosis, placing a further burden on health services.

Diabetes already costs the National Health Service a whopping £1 million an hour and, if the current trends continue, it is questionable whether the health service will be able to deal with the resulting fallout, particularly as the illness can lead to other serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness “and more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined”, noted Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of the charity.

The rise in new cases of diabetes is undoubtedly being fuelled by the growing portion of the population leading ‘unhealthy’ lifestyles, with bad diets and little exercise feeding a rise in obesity, which, according to the International Diabetes Federation, is a factor in around 80% of new cases of type II diabetes.

The government has poured serious cash into putting in place several strategies to help promote healthier lifestyles around the nation – such Healthy Towns and Change4Life – but, being in their infancy, these schemes have not yet made any real impact. However, it is crucial that initiatives such as these will pay off in the long run because, as Smallwood stressed, “if we don’t stop the rising tides of obesity and diabetes millions will face a future of ill-health and will put an ever-growing strain on NHS resources.”

Last year’s hard-hitting findings by Foresight’s project Tackling Obesities: Future Choices shockingly forecast that, by 2050, 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and about 25% of all children under 16 could be obese at a cost to the economy of around £45 billion, presenting a huge healthcare challenge and underscoring the need to implement effective prevention strategies now.