Weight gained during the pandemic puts more people at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with people seeking help from health services to lose weight on average heavier than before they started. the coronavirus crisis, according to an NHS study.
People who seek help with weight loss average 2.27 kg (5 lbs) more than those who started the program in the previous three years, research shows.
People under 40 registering for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Program gained the most weight and weigh, on average, 8 pounds more than those who enrolled before the pandemic, according to the study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
This could have important implications for health services, as it is estimated that even a gain of 1 kg can increase the risk of developing diabetes by about 8%. Projections suggest that at the current rate, the increasing number of diabetics could lead to heart attacks of nearly 39,000 more people in 2035 and more than 50,000 victims of stroke.
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, the NHS ‘national clinical director for diabetes and obesity who produced the results, said people worried about weight gain should get help as soon as possible.
“The pandemic has changed every part of our lives and has taken its toll on mind and body, with thousands paying a heavy price and many putting on weight during the lockdown,” he said. “Increased weight also means an increased risk of type 2 diabetes – which is associated with many common types of cancer, blindness, amputations, and heart attacks and strokes.”
He urged people to consider the NHS Diabetes Prevention Program, adding that NHS data showed people who completed the program typically achieved an average weight loss of 3.3kg and 3.6kg for those who are overweight or obese, reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes.
The NHS ramped up access to the program after research found people are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 if they have type 2 diabetes. The NHS is also promoting online tools to help people with diabetes manage their condition safely.
Diabetes UK is organizing a self-assessment tool, which helps people calculate their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by answering questions about risk factors, including age, weight and ethnicity.
Whether they are at moderate or high risk, they can now refer to the local service for help – without having to go to a health clinic. Participants can then join online or phone group sessions, join online peer support groups, and in some areas get wearable technology.