In England, One in Three Have Prediabetes

Prediabetes in England has tripled over past decade and is expected to keep rising

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) More people around the globe are developing diabetes. More than a third of the US and half of the Chinese population are estimated to have prediabetes. Rates in Britain are soaring as well.

Prediabetes is a condition among people who have never had diabetes but have elevated blood sugar levels. Those who take steps to lose weight, eat healthy and exercise may be able to turn high blood sugar levels around and avoid getting full-blown diabetes.

A new study may be a call to action for British citizens, as researchers reported swiftly climbing rates of prediabetes, especially among minorities and the economically disadvantaged.

"Exercise and diet to prevent prediabetes from progressing to diabetes."

Arch G. Mainous, PhD, with the Department of Health Services Research, Management and Policy at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues reviewed data on sample populations from the Health Survey for England (HSE) in the years 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011. These sample sizes ranged from 7,892 in 2003 to 3,690 in 2011, and covered more than 20,000 people in total.

Based on results from blood samples, Dr. Mainous and team calculated that the rate of prediabetes increased from 11.6 percent to 35.3 percent from 2003 to 2011. During that same period, prevalence of diagnosed diabetes rose from 3.55 percent to 5.59 percent. If the trend continues, the researchers estimated that one in 10 prediabetes cases will progress to diabetes every year.

For comparison, 8.3 percent of the US population is estimated to have diabetes, but about 28 percent of those with diabetes in America do not know they have the disease, according to the National Diabetes Education Program. While 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, more than three times that number have prediabetes.

In this study, prediabetes was defined as having HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) levels of 5.7 to 6.4 percent. HbA1c is a lab test that shows the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous three months. The test is based on the attachment of glucose to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Normal blood sugar is an Hb1Ac of 5.7 percent or less, while those with diabetes have HbA1c levels of 6.5 percent or higher.

Dr. Mainous and colleagues discovered that over half of those who were overweight and age 40 or older by 2011 had prediabetes.

They noted that older age, overweight, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol were all factors likely to increase prediabetes risk.

These authors wrote that those who were socioeconomically deprived were at substantial risk of having diabetes. Residents of the second most economically deprived areas of the country were 45 percent more likely to have diabetes by 2011, after accounting for their age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index and high blood pressure.

Socioeconomics have also affected diabetes rates in the US. Having either less than a high school education or a family income below poverty level doubled the rate of diabetes-related mortality, according to a 2010 investigation.

"In the absence of concerted and effective efforts to reduce risk, the number of people with diabetes is likely to rise steeply in coming years," the authors concluded.

While diabetes may have a more serious, long-term impact on a person’s health, prediabetes can raise the risk for vascular (related to blood vessels), kidney and eye problems, according to Dr. Mainous and colleagues.

This study was published June 9 in BMJ Open. This work was supported by a US Department of Defense grant contract.

Review Date: 
June 9, 2014
Last Updated:
June 13, 2014