Risking Diabetes

  • 80 percent of adults do not know their recommended daily sugar intake, as 46 percent rarely or never check their food’s sugar content, according to new research;
  • Only 14 percent of Irish parents know their children’s recommended daily sugar intake;
  • Only 44 percent of Irish men claim to know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes compared to 64 percent of women, a worrying statistic as Irish men now have the highest body mass index (BMI) in Europe according to a 2016 study published by medical journal, The Lancet;
  • 1 in 3 not aware that there is potential to prevent Type 2 diabetes; only 4 in 10 believe it can be reversed;
  • 37 percent of adults eat sugary confectionery at least once a day, with women and under-25s the largest consumers;
  • Dr Nina Byrnes: “Shocking snapshot of Ireland’s diabetes challenge.”

Despite Ireland facing an increasing diabetes burden, new research reveals that 46 percent of adults rarely or never check the sugar content of their food, despite 82 percent ‘regularly’ consuming confectionery and over a third (37 percent) eating it at least daily. Women and under-25s are most likely to snack on sugary food.

Only 14 percent of parents are aware of their children’s recommended daily sugar intake—despite 47 percent claiming to monitor their children’s sugar levels.

The LloydsPharmacy research, conducted by Amárach Research among 1,000 Irish people over the age of 16 in early 2017, is part of the pharmacy’s national campaign to highlight the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The  research revealed only 44 percent of Irish men claim to know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, compared to 64 percent of women. Irish men rank first in Europe for the highest body mass index (BMI), while Irish women rank third, according to a 2016 study published by medical journal, The Lancet.

The initiative is supported by GP and leading healthcare expert Dr Nina Byrnes. She described the findings as a “shocking snapshot of the diabetes challenge faced by the Irish public, healthcare professionals and policymakers.”

“The findings of LloydsPharmacy’s research are shocking, yet they attest to what I and many other Irish GPs encounter on a regular basis,” said Dr Byrnes. “With sugar consumption on the rise, and obesity and Type 2 diabetes along with it, there is an urgent need to educate the public on the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle, particularly children and especially secondary school pupils. Teenagers are at a point in life where they have greater autonomy and more power over their nutrition, and it’s important that they learn early on in life what constitutes healthy eating and what does not.

“Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management. If we do not tackle the root causes now, beyond the personal health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of people with diabetes, an epidemic will create huge problems for our health service, both in terms of cost to the taxpayer and hospital infrastructure.”

Joanne Kissane, Superintendent Pharmacistat LloydsPharmacy, said: “The increase in Type 2 diabetes in Ireland is a major health concern, but one that is largely preventable. However, our research shows that many people are still confused about core issues like daily sugar intake for their children, the sugar content in fizzy drinks and alcohol, and the dangers of diabetes.

“It is vital that consumers are educated on the adverse effects of sugar and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and diet. According to the HSE many Type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented by following four healthy lifestyle recommendations: regular exercise, not smoking, limited alcohol consumption, and eating a healthy balanced diet, especially the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables."

Other findings include:

  • Over a third (36 percent) are not aware that diabetes can be prevented, while 40 percent believe incorrectly that it can be cured;
  • 4 in 10 monitor their sugar intake, and almost half (47 percent) of parents monitor their children’s;
  • 7 in 10 are influenced by warning labels when purchasing sugary food and drink;
  • 90 percent of those surveyed consume drinks that contain sugar, with wine, beer and fizzy drinks the most popular. Almost a fifth (18 percent) of those who consume sugary drinks say they drink them once every day.
  • Just over half (54 percent) know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a lifelong condition caused by a lack, or insufficiency of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is made by your pancreas. In diabetes, the pancreas makes too little insulin to enable all the sugar in your blood to get into your muscle and other cells to produce energy. If sugar can’t get into the cells to be used, it builds up in the bloodstream. Therefore, diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels.

Diabetes mellitus is the most common and there are two different categories. Type 1 diabetes tends to occur in childhood or early adult life, and always requires treatment with insulin injections. It is caused by the body’s own immune system destroying the insulin-making cells (beta-cells) of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly in adulthood. It is progressive and can sometimes be treated with diet and exercise, but more often Type 2 diabetes may require antidiabetic medicine and/or insulin injections.

Diabetes diagnoses

The International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas 2015 found the disease affects more than 171,800 Irish adults, or over 5.5 percent of the adult population. A further 64,800 are estimated to be living with undiagnosed diabetes.  There were 1,200 diabetes-related deaths in 2015. The study also estimated that the cost of treating diabetes and its complications could cost the Irish health service over one billion a year.


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