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Diabetes UK: People with diabetes 70% more likely to die from liver disease

People with diabetes are 70 per cent more likely to die from liver disease than people without the condition, according to research[1] being presented this week at the Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference.

Using electronic records linked to death records, researchers compared deaths from liver disease in people with and without diabetes aged 35 to 84 years between 2001 and 2007. Among the 1,267 people with diabetes and 10,100 people without diabetes who died of liver disease, one in four (24 per cent) people with diabetes died from hepato-cellular cancer (HCC), a complication of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, compared to one in ten (9 per cent) people without diabetes.

The proportion of deaths from alcoholic liver disease was greater in the population without diabetes (63 per cent) compared to those with diabetes (38 per cent). Overall people with diabetes were 70 per cent more likely to die of liver disease than people without diabetes.

Diabetes UK Director of Research, Dr Iain Frame, said: "The best defence against liver disease if you have diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight and be as physically active as possible. Your doctor may also recommend regular testing of your liver function if you take medications that could potentially affect your liver.

"Previous studies have found a link between diabetes and liver disease and this research adds to that knowledge. We now need further investigation into how diabetes affects the liver to find new methods of preventing this complication."

Lead researcher Dr Sarah Wild, from the University of Edinburgh, said: "Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become much more common recently, particularly among people with diabetes.

"The major risk factor for NAFLD is being overweight which is also an important risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. NAFLD increases the risk of cirrhosis which in turn increases the risk of liver cancer. A healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of NAFLD and prevention is particularly important because the options for treatment are limited."

People with diabetes concerned about their risk of developing liver disease can find further information about losing weight and being more physically active at www.diabetes.org.uk

- ENDS -

For further media information please contact Huw Beale on 020 7424 1152 or the Diabetes UK Media Relations Team on 0207 424 1165 or email pressteam@diabetes.org.uk.

For urgent out of hours media enquiries only please call 07711 176 028. ISDN facilities available.

Notes to editor:

1

2 Diabetes is associated with increased risk of death from liver disease - SH Wild, Scottish-Southampton diabetes and liver disease gp, Scottish Diabetes Research Network epidemiology gp. College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK. School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK. School of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK. School of Medicine and Dentristy, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. P424, Diabetic Medicine: Abstracts of the Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference (30 March to 1 April 2011), Volume 28, Supplement 1. Published by Wiley-Blackwell.

3 Diabetes UK is the leading charity for over 3.5 million people in the UK with diabetes In 2011, Diabetes UK aims to spend over £6 million on diabetes research to investigate the causes and prevention of diabetes, to improve care and treatment of diabetes and ultimately to work towards a cure. For more information visit www.diabetes.org.uk. In the UK, there are currently 2.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes and it is estimated that 850,000 people have Type 2 diabetes but do not know it.

4 Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance). Insulin acts as a key unlocking the cells, so if there is not enough insulin, or it is not working properly, the cells are only partially unlocked (or not at all) and glucose builds up in the blood. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85 and 95 per cent of all people with diabetes, usually affects people over 40 (over 25 in people from South Asian and Black backgrounds) and is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition to this, medication and/or insulin is often required. In most cases the condition is linked with being overweight and can go undetected for up to ten years meaning around 50 per cent of people show signs of complications by the time they are diagnosed.

5 Type 1 diabetes develops when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. This type of diabetes usually appears before the age of 40 and is the least common of the two main types and accounts for around 10 per cent of all people with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, it is not known why it develops and it is not connected with being overweight. People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin either via a pump or by injections several times a day to stay alive.

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