Diabetes, obesity 'like horse and carriage'

The association between the most common type of diabetes and obesity is so strong that for most diabetes sufferers they go together like a horse and carriage, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare announced today.

The Institute was releasing its Diabetes: Australian Facts 2002 report for today's World Diabetes Day.

The report shows that people with Type 2 diabetes (covering 85-90% of cases) were significantly more likely to be either overweight or obese than the general population.

The 10-15% with the less common early-onset Type 1 diabetes tend to be of normal weight or underweight.

Dr Stan Bennett, who headed the report's author team, said that the concern with overweight and obesity had been confirmed by recently-released data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which showed continuing increases in the prevalence of overweight and obesity at all ages.

Diabetes: Australian Facts 2002 reports that among men aged 25 or over, 89% of those with Type 2 diabetes were overweight or obese (markedly overweight) compared with 67% of men in the general population. 62% of those with Type 2 diabetes were obese compared with 19% in the general population.

Among women aged 25 or over, 64% of Type 2 diabetes sufferers were overweight or obese, compared with 51% of all women in this age range. 43% of those with Type 2 diabetes were obese compared with 21% in the general population.

The report estimates that the total number of diabetes sufferers in the nation is approaching the 1 million mark, with strong evidence that half of these sufferers are unaware that they have the disease. The disease affects about 1 in 14 adults and is involved in 1 in every 13 deaths. The number of adults with the disease has trebled in the last 20 years.

Dr Bennett says that the diabetes epidemic is mostly the result of rises in Type 2 diabetes, which is potentially preventable.

'It's potentially preventable because many of the major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are related to lifestyle and can be modified-risk factors such as obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor diet. They are all in themselves interrelated, and are risk factors for other diseases too, such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.'

'We're not saying that if you are overweight you will have diabetes. What we are saying is that you greatly increase your chances of getting diabetes if you are overweight or obese, and you can lessen these chances if you manage your body weight through a combination of diet and physical activity.'

'Diabetes is not a trivial condition. People with diabetes need to manage it well so that potential serious complications can be reduced. But people with the disease have a higher chance of complications such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, limb amputation, destructive gum disease and impotence.'

14 November 2002


Further information: Dr Stan Bennett, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1141
For specialist medical comment: Dr Jeff Flack, Diabetes Centre, Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, tel. 02 9722 8354
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032