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Ireland 'not immune to global epidemic of obesity and diabetes'

The number of people in Ireland living with diabetes expected to rise by 30 per cent over the ten years to 2020.

File photo of a patient undergoing a test for diabetes.
File photo of a patient undergoing a test for diabetes.
Image: Hugo Philpott/PA Wire

THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE over 45 living with diabetes – where diagnosed or not – is expected to rise by 9.1 per cent to over 175,000  by 2020 in Ireland, according to a new report from the Institute of Public Health.

Diabetes results from the body’s inability to properly use the blood-sugar-controlling hormone, insulin.

In 2010, an estimated 3.2 per cent of adults (106,000 people) had been clinically diagnosed with diabetes in the previous year. Most of these people (94,000) fell in the over 45 age group and diagnosis rates are similar among men and women.

The IPH says that the rate of clinically diagnosed diabetes is expected to rise to 3.8 per cent, or 136,000 people – a 28 per cent increase in a decade.

An estimated 8.9 per cent of adults over 45 in Ireland had diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, in 2010. This is expected to increase to 9.1 per cent by 2020, which represents an increase of 30 per cent over ten years.

The research was carried out by the IPH in collaboration with the HRB Centre for Diet and Health Research at UCC and the Centre for Public Health NI at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Prof Ivan Perry from the HRB Centre for Health and Diet Research said that we’re currently living in “the grip of a global epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes”, and that Ireland “is not immune to this phenomenon”.

“Most people now understand the causes of obesity and diabetes,” he added. “Unfortunately knowledge alone does not change behaviour.”

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Perry said that government proposals to increase tax on sugary soft drinks “is critical” in pushes changes in our food environment.

Dr Anna Clarke, Health Promotion and Research Manager with Diabetes Ireland said that it’s important to differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. “Increases in Type 2 diabetes is being fed by rising obesity and inactivity levels,” she said, “whereas Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition that currently is not preventable.”

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