Type-2 Diabetes rising at an alarming rate in the UK

One of the world’s deadliest medical conditions is experiencing an explosion in numbers, thanks to the increased amounts of processed sugar in our diets. Type-2 diabetes kills one person every few seconds, yet because the disease is closely associated with obesity, the attitude of the media and members of the public is that it is self-inflicted and therefore not worth as much attention as conditions like cancer.

San Francisco-based researchers from the University of California argued recently, in an article in the journal “Nature”, that sugar is responsible for so many deaths around the world that it should be considered a toxic substance; putting it in the same bracket as tobacco and alcohol. Over 30 million deaths each year can be attributed to a poor diet, leading to calls for a tax on food products which are high in processed sugars and even the imposition of an age limit on who can buy these foods to protect young children from becoming obese and developing diabetes.

Sucrose is the most dangerous of the processed sugars which are commonly found in many of the food products we buy on a daily basis. Cereals, yoghurts and even some meats are all high in sucrose which is made by combining glucose and fructose, a sugar found naturally in fruits, to create a substance called “high-fructose corn syrup”.

Rather than spend money and add more fruit and vegetables to products like soups and sauces, food manufacturers take the cheap option and add sucrose to boost the flavour. The fructose in this processed sugar is broken down by the liver, rather than being naturally broken down into healthier carbohydrates during the digestion process.

A diet which is high in fructose puts extra pressure on the liver and can lead to the failure of the organ, a condition called fatty liver disease as well as increasing the chances of developing Type-2 diabetes. Rather than being broken down, the sugars in fructose stay in the bloodstream, forcing the pancreas to produce ever increasing amount of insulin; a hormone which helps to regulate the amount of sugars in the system.

People who eat large amounts of processed sugars can wear out their pancreas over time, meaning that less insulin is produced or even that the body becomes immune to its effects. If there is no insulin to control the blood sugar level, or if the sugar level fails to respond to the insulin which is produced, Type-2 diabetes will soon follow.

Type-2 diabetes, which is a consequence of poor diet and the effects of old age, is very different from Type-1 diabetes, which many people have all their lives. Sufferers of Type-1 diabetes never produce enough insulin, because their own body attacks the cells in the pancreas which manufacture the hormone, meaning that the constantly have to monitor their diet, as well as injecting synthetic insulin into the bloodstream to prevent complications.

If you are diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes or are told you are at risk of developing the condition, the disease can have a serious impact on your general health. Sufferers are twice as likely to suffer a stroke in the first few years after their initial diagnosis, while the condition has been linked with dozens of health problems from nerve damage and miscarriages to heart and kidney disease.

The number of people suffering from Type-2 diabetes in the UK is increasing all the time; the latest figures suggest that there are over 2.5 million people with the condition, and another 1 million who have not yet been diagnosed. Unsurprisingly, this condition costs the NHS millions of pounds each year – at least 10% of the organisation’s annual budget.

Despite affecting millions of people and costing millions of pounds each year, the public and politicians have yet to realise how significant a problem Type-2 diabetes is; in fact, the current Health Secretary earns £25,000 a year for work as a non-executive director of Profero – a marketing company which has several clients in the confectionery industry.

No politician would have any links with the tobacco and alcohol industry, widely accepted as damaging to our health, yet there seems to be no conflict of interest when it comes to sugars; despite the proven link between these companies and a deadly medical condition.