THE number of diabetes cases in Suffolk will rocket by 8,000 in the next eight years as the obesity epidemic worsens, experts warned today.

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Obesity figures

Currently 22 in 100 children are overweight or obese in Suffolk at five years old

At age ten, 30 in 100 children are overweight or obese

Currently 26 in 100 men and 21 in 100 women exercise to the recommended level in Suffolk

n In 2008 half of all males and four in ten women in Suffolk were estimated to be either overweight or obese

The grim prediction comes from Diabetes UK, which believes the county will see a 21 per cent increase in cases by 2020.

Currently there are 38,000 diabetes sufferers in Suffolk – a figure which will spiral to 46,000 by the end of the decade, according to the charity.

Such an increase would equate to three people being diagnosed with the condition every day for eight years.

Dr Gerry Rayman, lead consultant physician at Ipswich Hospital’s Diabetes Centre, said 95pc of those cases will be Type 2 diabetes – commonly linked to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity.

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin for it to function properly, or when the body’s cells do not use insulin correctly.

He warned unless there is a “major change” in the public’s general fitness and obesity levels, the rise is inevitable.

“People have got to get fitter and lose weight,” said Dr Rayman.

“The bottom line is that this is preventable but it is only preventable if there is a major public health awareness and people take action to stop themselves getting diabetes.”

He added: “Anyone who has Type 2 diabetes risks their children developing the disease.

“Children will typically take on the lifestyle habits of their parents.

“It is vital money is invested in better educating people. Those responsible for public health need to really get the message out there.”

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said a combination of increasing diabetes cases and NHS budget pressures could create a “perfect storm that threatens to bankrupt the NHS”.

Ms Young said: “We need a government-funded campaign to raise awareness of risk factors for Type 2 diabetes to help identify and give proper support to those at high risk and to highlight the seriousness of the condition so that people understand why they should be doing everything they can to prevent it.

“We still hear about people who think diabetes is a relatively mild condition and do not realise it can lead to devastating complications such as blindness, amputation and stroke.

“We face the very real prospect of the rise in the number of people with the condition combining with NHS budget pressures to create a perfect storm that threatens to bankrupt the NHS.

“If this projected increase becomes reality, it would be a calamity for the healthcare system and a disaster for public health.”

THE mum of a young girl with type 1 diabetes said people underestimate the impact the condition can have on the lives of sufferers and their families.

Tracy Ryman, of Castle Road, Ipswich, said her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes around two-and-a-half years ago.

She said when she was first told Chloe, who goes to St Alban’s High School, had the condition she felt there was a lack of information.

“There needs to be a big campaign. November 14 is World Diabetes Day – why aren’t health bosses raising more awareness and launching an awareness campaign?

“The staff at the hospital’s Diabetes Centre do a great job but this needs to go further, it needs to be a nationally co-ordinated campaign,” said the 42-year-old. “We were helpless, there is nothing you can do you prevent Type 1 diabetes. But people can prevent Type 2 diabetes. Don’t underestimate this condition, it could have an enormous impact on your life.”

Ms Ryman is a member of the Ipswich Diabetic Support Group which can be found on Facebook.

n What needs to be done to help raise awareness of diabetes? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail lizzie.parry@archant.co.uk

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