Researchers 'shocked' by diabetes

"Alarming" new research has found nearly one in five Kiwi adults are set to develop type two diabetes.

A University of Otago study today unveils grim statistics showing the number of New Zealanders at risk of developing diabetes is much higher than previously realised.

Researchers analysed blood test results from more than 3300 Kiwis over the age of 15 and found seven per cent had diabetes and almost 20 per cent showed early signs of developing the disease, a condition known as pre-diabetes.

Researcher Professor Jim Mann, told Radio New Zealand the numbers came as a shock. "Never did I imagine, nor did any of my colleagues imagine, that there were as many as we found."

Fellow researcher Dr Kristen Coppell said the results, lumped on top of an already high national diabetes rate, should be of "major concern to policy makers and health funders".

The blood samples came from the 2008/2009 NZ Adult Nutrition Survey, conducted by the University of Otago on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

"We found an alarmingly high prevalence of a glucose metabolism disorder (diabetes or pre-diabetes) in working age groups," Coppell said.

Results showed the disorder affected:

- Almost 20 per cent of those aged 35 to 44 years

- More than 25 per cent of those within the 45 to 54 age bracket

- And almost half of those aged 55 to 64

"The implication of increased diabetes-related morbidity, mortality and health care costs are considerable," she said.

Researchers called for "urgent" action to prevent the explosion in diabetes.

The blood sample data showed diabetes was more frequent in men than in women and was higher among those suffering from obesity.

It also differed across ethnicities, with 15 per cent of Pacific Island people affected, almost 10 per cent of Maori and six per cent of European and other.

The research was undertaken by Coppell, Professor Jim Mann and colleagues from the University's Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research.

The Press