Britain is in the grip of a health epidemic that is threatening to overwhelm the NHS, a BBC Panorama investigation suggests.
The number of people that are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes continues to rise at an alarming rate the programme states, especially among children.
In 2000 there were no cases among children in the UK, but today more than 500 children in the UK have been diagnosed with a disease called “the hidden killer” and there are no signs that the rate is slowing. Shocking rates of obesity have been blamed for the trend.
Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart failure, blindness, kidney disease and leg amputations. The BBC film team spent six months filming in Birmingham, once of the centres of the disease’s rising where almost one in ten people now have the disease.
Blood sugar checks four times a day
A 15-year-old boy, Ameer, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago. Susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes runs in his family, as people of South Asian origin are twice as likely to have the disease. He faces a lifetime of diabetes and must check his blood sugar levels at least four times a day.
“I go to the shops and mum says you’ve got to spend it on your lunch, not chocolate or crisps or sugary drinks, but sometimes I’ll get a small bar of chocolate,” he says. “And when it comes to checking my sugar I’ll be like ‘Oh my god I need to drink a lot of water’.”
After eating a ‘normal’ dinner which typically includes chapati and curry, a visit to Professor Tim Barrett to check his glucose levels reveals another shock.
“The glucose level for somebody who doesn’t have diabetes would be between about 3.5 and about 7.8. Something like that,” Professor Barrett says. “We’re trying to get him to manage his glucose levels between 4 and 7. Once it’s over about 14 actually it’s much higher than we’d like to see.”
With a glucose level of 18, Ameer could see his disease result in eye damage by the time he is 25.
Professor Tim Barrett had this to say: “I saw a child last week who is developing cirrhosis of the liver. Type 2 diabetes in children may be a different disease to Type 2 diabetes in adults. So adults who get this at the age of 50 or whatever may not necessarily get these other complications.
“The children we’re seeing with Type 2 seem to have got a more aggressive progress. And they’re getting these complications earlier than you’d expect.”
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