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Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to produce or properly use insulin, which is needed to process glucose.

The Canadian Diabetes Association says a diabetes time bomb is ticking in British Columbia, with the rate of the disease expected to explode by 62 per cent over the next decade.

The figure is contained in a new report from the association that says the number of people with the disease will rise from 338,000 to more than 548,000, or to 10 per cent of the population, by 2020.

Nearly one in three British Columbians will either be living with the disease or will be at risk of developing it.

The report also says the direct and indirect financial impact of diabetes on the province will rise from $1.3 billion a year to almost $2 billion in the same time period if nothing is done.

Association president Michael Cloutier says the economic burden of diabetes in B.C. is staggering and threatens the sustainability of not only the health care system but the entire provincial economy.

Several factors are leading to the rise of the disease in B.C. he said.

"Aging population, which is pretty consistent with most of Canada and secondly we see an ongoing increase in people entering the province who have a higher disposition to diabetes than the general population, particularly people who originate from South Asia and Asia," said Cloutier.

B.C. has the second-highest rate of increase of the disease compared to other provinces and must take action on a number of levels, he said.

That action includes beefing up current government diabetes policies, focusing on high-risk groups and providing more access to medications and supplies that can prevent or delay the complications of diabetes.