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Rates of Type 2 diabetes are on the rise among younger adults in the U.K., with almost 168,000 people aged 18 to 39 now affected, according to Diabetes U.K. The disease, which was once considered a disease of later life, is now increasingly affecting young people and even children. This trend is particularly concerning as Type 2 diabetes can be more aggressive when diagnosed at an earlier age, leading to more complications and a higher likelihood of early death.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that increases the level of sugar in the bloodstream due to issues with the hormone insulin, which moves sugar from the blood into the cells of the body. People with the disease are often insulin resistant, leading to an accumulation of glucose in the blood. This can result in short-term side effects like tiredness and thirst, as well as more serious long-term complications such as sight loss, stroke, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Treatment for Type 2 diabetes typically involves diet, insulin injections, and other medication. In some cases, the disease can be put into remission through interventions like low-calorie diets or bariatric surgery. Last summer, England’s public health system introduced a tailored diet program for adults under 40 with Type 2 diabetes, aimed at helping them lose weight quickly and potentially achieve remission. The rising rates of Type 2 diabetes are largely attributed to the increasing prevalence of obesity in the U.K., with around 28% of adults in the country classified as obese and a further 36% as overweight.

The increase in obesity rates is driven by various factors, including the higher availability of foods high in fat and sugar and the higher prices of healthier foods. In addition, other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, such as deprivation, are also on the rise, contributing to growing health inequalities in the country. Diabetes U.K. CEO Colette Marshall emphasized the need for more efforts to make it easier for people to live healthier lives and reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. By improving the health of children and young people, the country can help to stem the rising tide of the disease.

Marshall called for bold action from political parties to address the crisis of rising Type 2 diabetes rates, overturn the broken food environment, and give every child and young person the best chance at growing up in good health. With a generational opportunity to make a difference, it is crucial to take steps to reverse the trend of increasing Type 2 diabetes diagnoses in younger adults and ensure that everyone has access to affordable, healthy food and opportunities for physical activity. By addressing these issues, the U.K. can work towards a healthier future for all its citizens.

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