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Type 2 diabetes on the rise among young people

Type 2 diabetes may be on the rise for young people in the UK. In 2017, 172 individuals under 25 years old were diagnosed with the condition, up from 95 the previous year. This brings the total number of youngsters being treated to 715. This may be a tiny percentage of the roughly 20 million under 25s in the UK, but the increasing rate of diagnosis has experts like Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health worried: “A rise in Type 2 diabetes of this magnitude is alarming and shows that the childhood obesity epidemic is starting to bite.”

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease which causes high blood sugar levels. Multiple factors can increase our likelihood of developing the condition including being obese, physical inactivity and having an unhealthy diet.

In 2017, 172 individuals under 25 years old were diagnosed with the condition, up from 95 the previous year

Usually, the insulin produced by the pancreas controls our blood’s glucose levels, keeping it low by directing the sugar into cells to be used for energy or into fat to be stored. If sugar levels become high, the pancreas produces more insulin to bring it back down. However, having a bad diet or using up a lot of your body’s storage capacity can mean high levels are sustained over extended periods of time. Eventually, the pancreas tires itself out and can become unable to make enough insulin or what it can make is less effective. Having this worn out pancreas means you have diabetes.

In terms of visible symptoms, it is common to feel constantly tired, thirsty and for cuts to heal more slowly. For some only being careful what they eat is sufficient but for others, medication and regular insulin injections are necessary to keep the worst at bay such as heart disease or strokes.

The insulin produced by the pancreas controls our blood’s glucose levels, keeping it low by directing the sugar into cells to be used for energy or into fat to be stored

The government and local councils have been pressured to do more to curb childhood obesity. We have already seen actions like this year’s sugar tax being applied to high sugar drinks and the Department of Health and Social Care has further plans to reduce exposure to unhealthy foods and increase fitness in schools.

But what about those of us further along in the education system, what can we do? Paul Mortimer, ITV’s digital controller, might see watching Love Island as good a first step. Replying to criticism of the show’s lack of body type diversity he said the show was “aspirational”, that seeing the attractive cast could inspire people to work out.

We have already seen actions like this year’s sugar tax being applied to high sugar drinks and the Department of Health and Social Care has further plans to reduce exposure to unhealthy foods and increase fitness in schools

Others argue the show skews our perception of what it means to be healthy. We don’t have to turn to minuscule portion sizes and spend hours in the gym; as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day goes a long way. This doesn’t have to be running or swimming, the walking we do getting to lectures and seminars eats into that time too, so it isn’t as much as it seems.

Back in 2015, a study of 345 UK university students found that only around a third had good eating habits. They found the main areas for improvement were cutting down on snacking or finding better alternatives and cooking healthier food for meals. Time can often be in low supply but if you find yourself with enough spare, preparing meals and storing them for later can be a better alternative to microwaveable ready meals that are just as convenient.

We don’t have to turn to minuscule portion sizes and spend hours in the gym; as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day goes a long way

Most importantly, particularly for those who know friends who struggle with fitness is we support each other. We shouldn’t pressure people to do something they don’t want to do but should help in the ways they want us to so that we can all live our best life.

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