National Obesity Forum (NOF) chairman Dr Colin Waine has warned that the financial cost of obesity could "bankrupt the NHS".
Speaking at the NOF's fifth annual conference in London, he talked about the challenges posed by obesity and what needs to be done to overcome them.
Dr Waine said: "Even with the very generous funding that we have had, the problem is escalating so quickly we are not just going to get an epidemic of obesity, we are going to have an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes.”
On Sunday, new research by the Foresight Tackling Obesities: Future Choices project warned that half the population will be obese within 25 years if trends continue.
Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK, said:
“Dr Waine is right to focus on the soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes. The worry is that it’s not just adults who are affected.
“It is estimated that there are around 1,000 children with Type 2 diabetes in the UK, all of whom are clinically obese. This means that there is a generation of overweight youngsters facing potential blindness, heart disease and amputations.
"In a time where we enjoy much-increased life expectancy in comparison to previous generations, chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes could lead to thousands of needless deaths in years to come.
“We need to take action now. Finland has the first example of a large scale prevention programme, based on studies which have shown that changes to diet and levels of exercise can reduce new cases of Type 2 diabetes by 58 per cent. Children need to eat a healthier diet and take more physical activity to reduce their chances of developing the condition.
“As the Foresight project highlighted, the potential long term impact of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children is frightening - both in terms of impact on our youngsters and the cost of dealing with the crisis.
"The NHS already spends £13.7 million a day dealing with diabetes and its complications. This figure will rise rapidly as our children grow to be adults facing a lifetime of ill health."