MORE than two-thirds of Tasmanian adults will be overweight and diabetes will become the No.1 burden of disease if action is not taken on rising obesity, according to Diabetes Tasmania chief executive Caroline Wells.
Ms Wells was commenting on the release of the latest Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle report earlier this week, which found that Australians aged between 25 and 34 had gained 6.7 kilograms since 1999.
According to the report, people with previously known diabetes had a similar risk of dying as smokers, and were five times as likely to die compared with people with normal glucose tolerance.
Obese people were twice as likely to develop depression, and once they reached their 60s were twice as likely to have cognitive impairment and physical disability.
Ms Wells said the figures were not surprising, as she had seen the decline in Tasmania's public health.
"One of the other concerning things we already knew, looking locally, is that for Tasmanian children aged five to 17, their rates of obesity and overweight increase from 18.6 per cent to 28.8 per cent, and that's only second to the Northern Territory," Ms Wells said.
"We're looking at six or seven people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each day, we've got 22,500 on the register ... and in Tasmania we've got about 45,000 people on the cusp of developing type 2 diabetes."
Ms Wells said many Australians still didn't understand how serious diabetes was.
"When you look at the fatality around smoking, everybody knows smoking is dangerous, and it's a killer, but they actually don't see diabetes in the same light," Ms Wells said.
"It is a serious disease with serious complications like blindness, amputations, heart disease and stroke."
Ms Wells said action needed to be taken soon, supporting more investment in prevention and education programs, restricting junk food advertising, taxing junk food and subsidising healthy food.
"People don't go out to deliberately make bad choices, so if there are things that can support them, like education, understanding, and price, I think people will want to do that," Ms Wells said.