Updated: 12:43, Tuesday December 3, 2013
Australians are risking amputations, kidney failure and blindness by not taking type 2 diabetes seriously, says a leading specialist on the disease.
Diabetes is one of the greatest health epidemics in modern times, says Associate Professor Neale Cohen, General Manager of Diabetes Services at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
'It's a worldwide problem largely driven by sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating, said Prof Cohen, who is making several presentations at a world diabetes congress in Melbourne from Tuesday.
Australia has parallel epidemics. For most, type 2 diabetes is caused by too much food and too little exercise, with an added genetic risk for some.
Indigenous people, however, are at serious risk regardless of their lifestyle.
'But they get an extremely aggressive form of type 2 diabetes that can occur at a young age.
Prof Cohen said people liked to blame carbohydrates for diabetes, but the real danger food was fat.
It would be a great start if high-risk and diabetic people reduced the fat in their diet and limited the number of times they ate out, he said.
A big problem is that many people do not know their diabetes status and those who do often do not take it seriously.
'People may have had it for five or 10 years before they get tested. They could have kidney damage or bleeding at the back of the eyes.