The study authors warned that a ‘concerted and effective effort to reduce risk’ will be needed to prevent a huge increase in the number of cases of diabetes in the country over the next few years.
Up to one in ten people with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes every year, raising fears that 3.5% of the adult England population could be at risk of developing the disease each year without intervention.
People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk of vascular, kidney and eye problems.
The findings, published in a BMJ Open study, analysed data for 2003 to 2011 obtained from the Health Survey for England, which included over 20,000 people aged over 16.
'Exceptionally surprising' increase
In 2003, the prevalence of pre-diabetes stood at 11.6%, but this rose sharply to 35.3% in 2011, a three-fold increase.
It means England has similar levels of pre-diabetes to those in the US, where around 36% of adults are estimated to have the condition. But the authors warned that prevalence has risen faster in England over the last few years.
The study revealed that over half of the overweight population (50.6%) in England had pre-diabetes in 2011.
It showed that age, BP and cholesterol level were linked to pre-diabetes. A link between pre-diabetes and ethnic group was also observed, with black and minority ethnic groups disproportionately affected.
A rise in obesity during the late 1990s has been suggested as a possible reason for the sharp increase.
The study authors from the University of Florida described the rapid rise as ‘exceptionally surprising’. ‘The study is an important signal that we need to take action to improve our diet and lifestyles. If we don’t, many people will have less healthy, shorter lives.’