LONDON - Some 3.7 million people in Britain now have diabetes, a figure that has more than doubled in the past 20 years, according to data compiled by the charity Diabetes UK, The Guardian reported.
According to the charity, the number of people aged 17 or older who are living with the disease has jumped by 1.9 million since 1998. The data compiled did not break down the figures for the two main types of diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, such as in Type 1 diabetes, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces, as in Type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
Type 1 cases are usually diagnosed during childhood, although they may occur at any age, and require the daily administration of insulin for treatment.
Type 2 diabetes, the far more common form around the world, is largely tied to ageing and obesity. While this type of diabetes was previously more prevalent among adults, it is now increasingly more common in children.
Both types of diabetes could risk bringing long-term complications such as heart disease, stroke, eye disease, kidney failure and amputations.
While prior research has shown that both types of diabetes have increased, the rise of Type 2 cases has been greater, said Ms Nikki Joule, a policy manager for Diabetes UK. "(The) rise in obesity has driven that largely over recent years," she was quoted saying.
According to the charity, England alone has seen nearly 7 per cent of its population being diagnosed with the disease.
The number of people with diabetes, however, could be much higher, given that estimates suggest that almost a million people in Britain have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, the charity said.
Research conducted by the group on figures related to obesity and waist circumference has also shown that about 12.3 million people in Britain are at risk of Type 2 diabetes even though they have not yet been diagnosed with the disease.
Ms Joule called for more efforts to be made by the government to recognise the seriousness of the problem.
She said while the charity welcomes the sugar tax on soft drinks that is expected to come into force in Britain in April, the charity believes more should be done to help people make better choices about their food. This, she said, included measures to ensure food is better labelled and for restrictions to be implemented on supermarket promotions of unhealthy products.