Medical Writing Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes The horror and the pity: Obesity and diabetes

Volume 21, Issue 4 - Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

The horror and the pity: Obesity and diabetes

Something less beguiling for a horror-story addict than the emergence of obesity would be hard to imagine. Start by reading the 27 August 2011 issue of the Lancet. One article predicts that the obesity rate in the UK will make the tremendous leap from the 25% it is today to 40% by 2030, when its consequences will cost the National Health Service in the UK an extra £2 billion a year. Add to this that more recently researchers reported the body mass index (see illustration of its origin of on page 272), which is used to determine adiposity, underestimates the number of people currently classified as obese by 39%2 article published in the Guardian in June this year. Peretti explains that on average people in the UK are 19 kg heavier than they were in the mid-60s. We are not exercising less but we need to exercise more to counteract our change in diet. The main cause for the increase in obesity, which is also associated with an increased risk of many other disorders most notably diabetes type 2, is that we are consuming large quantities of high-fructose corn syrup. This supplement was surreptitiously introduced into our diet by the food industry in the 1970s. Peretti's article recounts a riveting and plausible theory of the political–industrial conspiracy that allowed this disaster to happen.

Next you should read this issue of Medical Writing. You could be forgiven though for asking why, however fascinating and horrific, a medical writing journal should devote an entire issue to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Unlike clinical trials related to cancer and paediatrics featured in recent issues of MEW, diabetes trials do not have sensitive and unique features that affect the preparation of reports on the procedures and results. But, with the incidence of obesity and diabetes set to soar, medical writers are bound to find themselves writing more and more about obesity and diabetes in the future. Accumulating knowledge of the diseases we write about is important. The GATE principles, which define the interaction between medical writers and authors, require that writers have sufficient expertise in the topic or field.4

Another reason for focussing on diabetes is personal. I started my career in medical writing as managing editor of Diabetologia and before I pass on the editorship of Medical Writing to Phillip Leventhal, I am keen to highlight obesity and diabetes type 2 as diseases we should all be vitally concerned about.

The pity is that both diseases are largely preventable through diet and physical exercise. An obvious question, then, is why we don't act in our own best interests: eat sensibly and exercise sufficiently to avoid the dire consequences that we are fully aware of. It's a question that Diana Raffelsbauer asks in her article on obesity. Together with Melanie Price she also examines the evolution and causes of obesity: the contribution made by genetic factors, a lack of physical exercise, and ‘toxic food environment’. Did you know that while the price of the flagship healthy food, fruit and vegetables, increased by 118% in the USA between 1985 and 2000, the cost of carbonated soft drinks, which are particularly fattening, only went up by 20% over the same period? Or were you aware that, according to the latest

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  1. Shah NR, Braverman ER. Measuring adiposity in patients: the utility of body mass index (BMI), percent body fat, and leptin. PLoS ONE 2012;7(4):e33308. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033308.
  2. Peretti J. Why our food is making us fat. Available from:
  3. Daskalopoulou SS, Mikhailidis DP. The involvement of professional medical writers in medical publications. Curr Med Res Opin 2005;21:307–10.
  4. Lok AS. Authorship: who should be included and how should it be determined? Gastroenterology 2011;141(3):786–8.



The horror and the pity: Obesity and diabetes
Passing the torch
Message from the President
Obesity: When weight becomes unbearable
Genetics and environmental factors in obesity and diabetes: Complex problems, complex solutions
New treatments for type 2 diabetes
Is exercise physiology a real science?
What is the best quality of diabetes care? The Global Diabetes Survey needs your participation
The importance of Health Research in Horizon 2020: Diabetes as a model of a chronic disease and the need for sustainable funding
Is anyone stealing your articles? Exploding copyright myths
Paragraphing (Part 1 of 2)
Improving patient communication by writing with empathy
In the Bookstores
Journal Watch
The Webscout
Manuscript Writing
Regulatory Writing
English grammar and style
Medical Journalism
Out On Our Own


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Editoral Board


Raquel Billiones


Evguenia Alechine

Jonathan Pitt

Managing Editor

Victoria White

Deputy Managing Editor

Alicia Brooks Waltman

Associate Editors

Anuradha Alahari

Jennifer Bell

Nicole Bezuidenhout

Claire Chang

Barbara Grossman

Sarah Milner

John Plant

Sampoorna Rappaz

Amy Whereat

Section Editors

Daniela Kamir


Jennifer Bell


Nicole Bezuidenhout 

Digital Communication

Somsuvro Basu

EMWA News 

Ana Sofia Correia 

Gained in Translation

Ivana Turek

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Wendy Kingdom / Amy Whereat

Good Writing Practice

Alison McIntosh 

In the Bookstores

Maria Kołtowska-Häggström

Lingua Franca and Beyond

Maddy Dyer


Lisa Chamberlain-James

Medical Communications/Writing for Patients

Payal Bhatia

Medical Devices

Evguenia Alechine

My First Medical Writing

Anuradha Alahari

News from the EMA

Adriana Rocha


Tiziana von Bruchhausen


Clare ChangZuo Yen Lee 

Regulatory Matters

Sam Hamilton

Regulatory Public Disclosure

Claire Gudex

Teaching Medical Writing

Louisa Ludwig-Begall / Sarah Kabani

The Crofter: Sustainable Communications

Louisa Marcombes

Veterinary Writing

Editors Emeritus

Elise Langdon-Neuner

Phil Leventhal

Layout Designer

Chris Monk