The UK should be bracing itself for a steep increase in the number of people with diabetes, if findings from the Health Survey for England are anything to go by.

According to data published in the BMJ Open this week, rates of pre-diabetes in adults (aged 16 or over) have leapt from 11.6% in 2003 to 35.3% in 2011.

This means that more than a third of adults in England are now on the brink of developing the disease, because their blood sugar levels are at the end of the 'normal' range.

By 2011, 50.6% of overweight adults (with a body mass index of less than 25) aged 40_years and above were found to have pre-diabetes.

Consequently, "in the absence of concerted and effective efforts to reduce risk, the number of people with diabetes is likely to increase steeply in coming years", the researchers warn.

In an emailed statement to PharmaTimes World News, Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said the the growing number of people at risk of type 2 diabetes is very serious.  

'No single action'

“Diabetes is a complex problem and requires action at national, local, community, family and individual levels; no single action will solve this issue alone," he said.

"Action from manufacturers and retailers to reduce the calories, fat and sugar in the foods we buy have a role to play, as do schemes such as the NHS Health Check, which presents a real opportunity for those aged 40 – 74 to take early action to improve their health".

But, as Diabetes UK points out, "at the moment not everyone who is eligible for this check is getting one" and this needs to change, particularly as up to 80% of cases of Type 2 diabetes could be avoided or delayed with healthier lifestyles.

On the economic side, a tenth of the NHS budget is already being shelled out on diabetes and unless prevention improves "this spending will soon rise to unsustainable levels", the charity warned.