A rising tide of obesity has seen deaths from diabetes soar in women under 50, medical researchers have revealed.
Figures show the mortality rate from diabetes went up almost five times in females aged under 50 since 1990, while among men in the same age group it almost doubled
The researchers, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, say it is shocking that “relatively young” people should be dying “deaths amenable to healthcare” – deaths which simply should not occur with timely and effective care.
They argue that diabetes is a completely treatable condition, but efforts to improve survival rates from the disease are being overwhelmed by an increasing rate of overweight patients developing it younger than ever before due to obesity.
In Scotland, the number of cases of diabetes has risen markedly, with 4.6% of the population now thought to be affected, up from only 2% a decade ago.
The condition is now listed as either as the main cause or a contributory factor in more than 4000 deaths a year in the country.
The researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), found that in Scotland the death rate from diabetes in women under 50 increased from 0.22 deaths per 100,000 in 1990 in 1990 to 1.02 in 2009. Among men, the rate increased from 0.75 in 1990 to 1.38 in 2009.
Professor of European Public Health at the LSHTM Martin McKee said: “People should not be dying at relatively young ages from diabetes – that is the key thing.
“Health systems nowadays should be able to keep them alive. What we are able to say from this data is that we need to look in more detail at exactly what is happening.”
Professor McKee added he had concerns that falling health budgets across the UK would have an impact on efforts to tackle problems like diabetes.
Professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University Naveed Sattar said the growing number of Scots getting fatter younger, and developing Type 2 diabetes at a younger age was challenging efforts to improve survival.
He said: “There are groups of individuals now who are younger, more obese, developing diabetes sooner, who more rapidly undergo progression through diabetes to needing more and more drugs more quickly.”
National director of Diabetes UK Scotland Jane-Claire Judson said: “Over the past ten years progress has been made in delivering quality diabetes care across Scotland. We have a national Diabetes Action Plan and excellent clinical guidelines.
“However, this research points to something else entirely, and that is a failure to recognise that diabetes is a life-threatening condition.”