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People at high risk of getting pre-diabetes need to be told so they can make lifestyle changes in a bid to combat the condition, Diabetes UK chief executive said.
There has been an "extremely rapid rise" in adults in England being on the cusp of having diabetes with those from poorer backgrounds at "substantial risk", researchers said.
The authors of the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, wrote: "There has been a marked increase in the proportion of adults in England with pre-diabetes.
"The socio-economically deprived are at substantial risk. In the absence of concerted and effective efforts to reduce risk, the number of people with diabetes is likely to increase steeply in coming years."
They added: "This rapid rise in such a short period of time is particularly disturbing because it suggests that large changes on a population level can occur in a relatively short period of time.
"If there is no coordinated response to the rise in pre-diabetes, an increase in numbers of people with diabetes will ensue, with consequent increase in health expenditure, morbidity and cardiovascular mortality."
Over a third of adults in England have borderline diabetes and if nothing is done to buck the trend, there will be a steep rise in the condition, researchers said.
People who are classed to have borderline diabetes - or pre-diabetes as it is also known - have higher than normal blood glucose levels.
Those with the condition are at high risk of developing diabetes and its associated complications.
Pre-diabetes in England has trebled in eight years with 35.3% having the condition in 2011 compared to 11.6% in 2003, a study published in the journal BMJ Open found.
The authors of the study examined data from Health Survey for England for the years 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011 involving thousands of participants.