Netherlands may face “diabetes crisis” as more are pre-diabetic

The number of people with a high risk of getting type 2 diabetes is soaring and could lead to a “diabetes crisis” if nothing is done, diabetes charity Diabetes Fonds has said at the start of a new awareness campaign.

Long-term research by Maastricht University has shown that over 1.4 million people between 40 and 75 are pre-diabetic, 300,000 more than in 2018.

Some 1.1 million people in the Netherlands already have diabetes and the high numbers cited in the research could mean an annual increase of 200,000 cases in the years to come, Diabetesfonds director Diena Halberstma told broadcaster NOS.

Type 2 diabetes, which is characterised by the body’s inability to produce insulin, can cause damage to the heart, kidneys and eyes if left untreated. Obesity, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, smoking and old age are among the main causes.

People who are obese are six times as likely to develop diabetes, the research showed. One in eight children are also obese and at risk of the disease.

The most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are thirst, tiredness and eye problems, such as a burning sensation or blurred vision.

The new campaign includes a diabetes risk test. Early diagnosis of the disease can limit the damage and prevent the disease from developing, Halbertsma said. “We want to find these people earlier so we can support them with personalised lifestyle recommendations,” he said.

The Diabetesfonds is also calling on the government to promote healthier choices in the supermarket by lowering tax on fruit and vegetables and encouraging the food industry to lower the amount of fat, sugar and salt in products.

Maastricht University is also investigating how social-economic factors influence the development of diabetes. Earlier research has already shown that people on low incomes are twice as likely to develop the diseases, and that more autonomy at work, for instance when to take breaks, will help health.

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