Middle-aged men are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as women, a study has found.

While just 1.2 per cent of women in England aged 35 to 44 have the condition, among men the proportion is 2.4 per cent.

It means around 92,960 men have the disease, compared with around 47,000 women.

The study from the charity Diabetes UK also found that among those aged 45 to 54, 6 per cent (around 197,050) of men have the disease compared with 3.6 per cent (around 120,670) of women.

The figures have sparked concern because diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.

The condition, where the body cannot process insulin properly, is often linked to obesity - and the study found that the higher rates of diabetes among men are linked to the fact that middle-aged men are usually fatter than women of the same age.

The study found that overall, men aged 35 to 54 are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as women.

Its report also revealed that cases of diabetes have risen four times faster in men aged 35 to 44 over the last 12 years compared with women of the same age.

Over that time, men have consistently been more overweight than women, which is fuelling their higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.

This type is linked to unhealthy lifestyles, including a lack of exercise and obesity, and accounts for around nine out of 10 cases of the disease.

The other sort of diabetes, Type 1, is not linked to obesity and usually develops in childhood or adolescence.

Simon O'Neill, director of care, information and advocacy at Diabetes UK, said: 'It's very worrying that men of this age are developing diabetes at such an alarming rate compared to their female counterparts.

'Most of them will have Type 2 diabetes which is strongly linked to lifestyle and can be prevented in many cases by eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing regular physical activity.

'Women should not rest on their laurels either. They may tend to develop the condition later in life, but the risk of death from heart disease associated with Type 2 diabetes is about 50% greater in women than it is in men - not a statistic to be ignored.

'Diabetes UK is calling on everyone carrying extra weight to reduce their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by leading a healthier lifestyle. We must take action now to tackle Type 2 diabetes head-on.'

Losing weight can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes in high-risk people by 58 per cent. Exercising can cut the risk by 64 per cent.

A total of 2.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and around 500,000 more have the condition but do not know it.

People over 40 are at higher risk of the condition, as are people with a large waist or family history of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is the form linked to poor exercise and diet. Many of the two million people with type 2 are overweight or obese - and an estimated 500,000 more people have type 2 but do not know it.

The number of obese people is set to soar over the coming decades, putting people at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. Ministers warn it could bankrupt the NHS if the tide of obesity is not reversed.

Type 2 diabetes can lay undetected for a decade or longer and around half of people already have complications by the time they are diagnosed. These complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.

This second type occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin. Too much sugar in the blood can damage the artery walls, leading to heart disease and stroke.

Type 1, which starts in infants and means the body cannot produce insulin - the hormone which enables sugar in the blood to enter the cells, where it can be converted into energy.