The number of people diagnosed with diabetes rose by its highest level for five years during 2013.
Figures from the NHS show there were 163,000 new cases of the condition last year, taking the total up to 3.2 million people.
That equates to six per cent of the UK's population, but experts say the real figure is probably much higher because many people do not realise they have the disease.
According to the charity Diabetes UK, the increase is the result of many people leading unhealthy lifestyles and rising levels of obesity.
Baroness Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "The big increase in the number of people with diabetes confirms that we are in the middle of an unfolding public health disaster that demands urgent action."
Diabetes increases a person's risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. In some cases it can also lead to limbs being amputated.
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