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How to cut your risk of diabetes – as research reveals 39% rise in under 40s

How to stop ‘the silent killer’ before even more young people are diagnosed.

women eating fast food and drinking beer
Do you know how to cut your risk? (Alamy/PA)

Diabetes is on the rise, with new research revealing those under 40 are at a higher risk than ever before.

Diabetes UK have released a report showing a 39% increase in type 2 diabetes in those aged 39 and under.

Poor diets and obesity are being cited as the reason behind the rise, due to the cheaper, unhealthy food now available, which is high in fat, salt and sugar.


The report’s authors said cases of type 2 diabetes among all under-40s have risen by more than 47,000 since 2016/17.

“We estimate nearly 168,000 people under the age of 40 are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK, with nearly 150,000 people under 40 diagnosed in England alone.”

Thousands more are living with the condition undiagnosed, with analysis suggesting half of people aged 16 to 44 with type 2 diabetes are unaware they have it.

Often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ because it can be asymptomatic in the onset, diabetes can lead to many other health issues, including heart disease and stroke.

But the good news is, a change in lifestyle can slash your risk of being diagnosed. Follow these simple rules to live a longer, healthier life…

Keep your BMI below 22

someone measuring their waist

“With more than two-thirds of adults in the UK carrying too much weight, it’s a shocking statistic that you are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are obese, compared with having a body mass index under 22,” says dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, who also works with the Tea Advisory Panel.

“Scientists think this is because the body cells of overweight people become increasingly resistant to insulin, forcing the body to keep producing more and more. This overuse exhausts the pancreas – the organ in the body where insulin is made – and the production of insulin then dwindles.”

It’s advisable to eat healthily and move your body to ensure your BMI stays at a healthy level.

Increase your fitness

people working out

We all know how important fitness is for our overall health, but it can be difficult to find the time to fit it in.

“A report in the World Journal of Diabetes found that, while vigorous exercise was best for cutting risk, even walking for at least 30 minutes a day lowered the risk by around half,” notes Ruxton.

“What we put into our bodies, how we recharge, and how we move are the three key pillars of maintaining our health. I recommend a combination of cardiovascular and strength training for optimal fitness.”

Maintain your blood sugar levels

black tea

Keeping your blood sugar levels healthy could also help keep type 2 diabetes at bay, says Ruxton.

The Tea Advisory Panel found drinking black or green tea daily, can help boost our intake of polyphenols – “natural bioactive plant compounds, which help to stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation”.

A longer fast between meals can also be better for blood sugar control, she adds: “A plan where you stick to water, regular tea or herbal tea between 7pm and 11am gives your pancreas a break and helps to stimulate fat burning. If you can’t face that, try to keep your carbs for mealtimes only, and stick to low-sugar, high-protein snacks, such as nuts, seeds, cheese, yoghurt, or dark chocolate.”

Eat more fibre

wholegrain pasta dish

A study published in the Nutrients journal found eating more fibre is associated with a reduction in type 2 diabetes risk. “Fibre is found in wholegrain bread, pasta, and rice as well as oats, beans, vegetables, and fruit,” says GP, Dr Gill Jenkins.

“Scientists believe that wholegrain cereal types are better for blood sugar control and reducing the risk of diabetes, but all sources are good for general health. We should aim for 30g a day, but intakes in the UK are less than half of this.”


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