Two million Canadians will get diabetes this decade, shows study

Nearly two million Canadians will be diagnosed withdiabetes over the next decade as the number of people considered overweight increases, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, examined Canadian population trends to determine how to best prepare for a surge in diabetes cases. It concluded that about one out of every 10 adult Canadians—about 1.9 million people—will develop the disease within the next 10 years, and that public health authorities should start preparing for the glut now.

Dr. Douglas Manuel, the study’s lead author and a senior researcher with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, said people who are overweight (those with a body mass index—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—of between 25 and 29) and obese (BMI greater than 30) will make up half of all new diabetes diagnoses.

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Type 2 diabetes is caused by high levels of glucose in the bloodstream, which is often linked to unhealthy diet and body mass. It’s the sixth most common cause of death in Canada, claiming about 8,000 lives a year.

Nearly 13 million adult Canadians—or 61%—are considered to be either obese or overweight, an increase of seven% since 2004, according to Statistics Canada.

As well, 26% of all Canadian children have an unhealthy body weight.

A host of causes have been given for rising levels of obesity, from increasingly sedentary lifestyles to an endless supply of calorie- and sugar-laden foods—particularly sugar-sweetened beverages, which some studies have suggested is the biggest driver of obesity rates.

While obese people have the highest risk of developing diabetes over the next decade—a 27% likelihood, according to Manuel—the much larger number of overweight people will result in three times as many cases.

“To be effective, strategies that aim to prevent diabetes in Canada should target groups who bear the greatest population risk,” Manuel wrote in the study, “Despite their lower individual risk, people who are overweight will account for many more diabetes cases because more Canadians are overweight (7.2 million) than are very obese (0.9 million).”

Many of these overweight people will be diagnosed with diabetes in their 30s or 40s. They will live with the disease for decades and could develop any number of complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks or stroke, meaning years of hospital visits, surgeries and treatment regimens for a large swath of the population.

“If you’re diagnosed with diabetes when you’re 70, it’s likely you’re going to die from complications within a couple of years,” said Manuel in an interview. “But if you’re diagnosed when you’re 30, there’s a good chance you could spend years, for example, on dialysis. And that’s where problems arise.”

Glen Doucet, the Canadian Diabetes Association’s executive director of public policy, agreed that focusing on those most likely to end up in hospital is the best strategy for trimming the costs associated with the disease.

Doucet said public health authorities need to target the six million Canadians believed to have pre-diabetes, or elevated blood sugar levels that could lead to the full-blown disease.

“Primary prevention is important, but it’s insufficient. We need to look at secondary prevention, those with pre-diabetes and with diabetes, from developing the complications associated with it,” said Doucet. “That’s really where the highest costs are, both in terms of tangible costs to the system and costs to quality of life.”

Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Jun 18, 10 • Diabetes News