Diabetes + obesity = diabesity
The WHO regards obesity as a new type of “epidemic” from which no continent is safe any more, not even those countries where undernourishment exists side by side with over - nourishment. We find ourselves in a new and paradoxical situation where there are more people who are overweight living on our planet than there are people who are starving.
The reasons for this development have long been attributed to a large extent to the imbalanced changes in our eating habits and to falling levels of physical activity in a society that spends most of its time sitting down (behind the wheel, in front of the television, glued to a computer screen or on an automated production line in a factory). As far as Europe is concerned, almost 10% of the EU population is now obese, with record levels of obesity in Greece and the Czech Republic (25% of men and women).
It is not only the fact that the obese suffer a real deterioration in their quality of life; this phenomenon also brings with it worrying consequences for society as a whole. Currently, at least 7% of health spending in the EU is allocated to obesity and its medical consequences – a figure that does not reflect the loss of economic activity attributable to this physical evolution. In fact, according to a study conducted by the UK National Audit Office, obesity is responsible for 18 million working days being lost in the UK every year.
At a medical level, current in-depth research into the origins and physiological consequences of this trend have highlighted the link – of cause and effect or vice-versa, this point has yet to be established – between obesity and Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that 80% of people suffering from this form of diabetes, referred to as “adult” diabetes, are at the same time characteristically overweight. This association, dubbed “diabesity“ can result in a significant increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease classically linked to being overweight, and can have serious pathological implications affecting, for example, sight, renal function, resistance to infection and the nervous system. On this basis, by 2010, the EU can expect to have 33 million citizens suffering from diabetes. Furthermore, this figure is undoubtedly on the low side, since it is estimated that one third of actual cases go undiagnosed.
This is why European investment in biomedical research into the diabetes-obesity-diabesity triangle has increased four-fold, rising from €44.5 million during the Fifth Framework Programme (1998 to 2002) to €188 million of appropriations in the Sixth (2002-2006).