Obesity: the disease, the problems, and the power of prevention
Earlier this year the World Obesity Federation made the stark statement that: “The early diagnosis and treatment of childhood obesity could be considered similar to vaccination.”
Essentially, they want to see this condition treated in the same way as chicken pox, measles and mumps: tackled – in the hope of eradication – by a strategic approach founded on proactive policies and early prevention.
Obesity in children and adolescents has risen tenfold in the last 40 years, according to a recent study by The Lancet. In Britain, one in ten young people aged between 5 and 19 is obese. Worryingly, the prevalence of obesity is actually higher in younger children than older ones.
The WHO first called for obesity to be understood as a disease in 1948, but back then it wasn’t even considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In 1997 the WHO held a special conference on obesity and stated that: “the global epidemic projections for the next decade are so serious that public health action is urgently required.”
Then it was alarmed that the prevalence of men with a BMI greater than 30 was 15% and 16.5% in women. To think that it has now risen dramatically to 67% for men and 57% for women, highlights just how serious a problem obesity poses to society.
The calls for more countries to officially recognise it as a disease is based on the position that obesity meets the definition of a chronic, relapsing, progressive disease that causes organ damage.
Women and men who are obese are 12.5 and 5.2 times (respectively) more likely to develop diabetes than people who are a healthy weight. 90% of people with Type 2 diabetes are obese.
People with diabetes are then at a greater risk of a range of chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputation, kidney disease and depression than people without diabetes. Diabetes leads to a two-fold excess risk for cardiovascular disease, and diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable sight loss among people of working age in England and Wales. About one in twenty people have diabetes, yet people with diabetes account for one quarter to one third of hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease.
According to Government figures released this year, people who have Type 2 diabetes are 28.4% more likely to die early than their peers.
Getting in front of this wave of diabetes will not only bring down the numbers of people affected but also see a positive impact on the numbers of obese people. As with all conditions – the earlier they are identified, the better. To do this, new methods of diagnosis are being developed.
A radical new test for a protein found in our blood called adiponectin can identify pre-diabetes. This is a game-changing diagnostic tool that empowers people with the knowledge that they are at risk, but may be able to avoid it through relatively simple lifestyle changes.
The adiponectin test is available from Randox – both for clinical use and also through our Randox Health clinics. We have developed the most comprehensive health checks available on the market. These are so sensitive that in a range of conditions including diabetes we are able to identify signs of pre-illness. This enables clients to make often simple changes to stay healthy.
We know that prevention works. The NHS carried out a study in 2016 which revealed an average 26% reduction in new cases of Type 2 diabetes in those participating in a diabetes prevention programme, compared with usual care.
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