Ireland has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, affecting more than one million people here; one in four adults are obese and one in four children are overweight or obese, which makes it highly likely that they will become obese adults.
There are approximately 2,000 deaths that are attributable to obesity in Ireland annually. New research has indicated that remission is achievable by half of people living with type 2 diabetes, if they can lose 15 per cent of their body weight, a finding that is independent of the starting BMI, making this relevant to any person living with type 2 diabetes who has a BMI over 30.
This claim apparently even applies to those who are on insulin and have poor diabetes control and IrSPEN, the clinical nutrition group, are advising those living with type 2 diabetes to seriously consider weight loss as a treatment method, as this has clear benefits both to the people living with the condition, who can reverse their symptoms and stop or reduce their medication need, but also to the Department of Health in terms of savings to the health budget.
A clinical audit showed that the treatment of an obese person with difficult to control diabetes in Donegal is approximately €4,000 per year. However, after over 15 per cent weight loss following treatment at Letterkenny University Hospital, this cost reduced to approximately €500 per year in direct healthcare cost pertaining to their diabetes. When applied to the number of people living with diabetes for whom this is possible, the state could make back all the money spent on the treatment within three to five years, and could then begin to save money, following that.
The current cost of treating all obesity-related diseases is approximately €1.16 billion per annum: 35 per cent of this cost is allocated to hospital care and medication costs and 65 per cent is from indirect costs, including productivity losses from absenteeism.
According to the WHO, 65 per cent of the diabetes burden, 23 per cent of the heart disease burden, in addition to between seven and 41 per cent of certain cancer burdens, are attributable to overweight and obesity.
Commenting on the research, Prof Carel le Roux from the Irish Society of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism said: “This year’s theme of the European Obesity day is ‘Tackling Obesity Together’ as it is now apparent that there is no single silver bullet, but rather that multiple approaches have to be used to optimally treat patients who have complications of obesity.
“For people living with diabetes as a result of obesity, the disease usually requires the combination of specialist diets, specialist exercise and medication and or surgical treatments. Not every patient responds equally to these treatments, however reversal of complications such as diabetes can be achieved in 2 in 10 people with the use of specialist diets, another 3 in 10 with the use of medication and another 5 in 10 with the use of surgical treatments”.
Mr John Conneely, Consultant Metabolic Surgeon, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, added: “This is a really positive message to people living with the condition to consider all of the options available to support them with this goal including diet, exercise, medication and surgery.
“A lifetime dependency on medicine can be removed and the person effectively will no longer experience symptoms associated with the disease. Ireland is now starting to lead the world in the clinical trials that are being offered to understand how the complications of obesity such as sleep apnoea and diabetes can be put into remission, we are very fortunate to be part of these developments”.
This guidance comes ahead of European Obesity Day which takes place on Saturday 19 May 2018.