THE number of Wimmera residents living with diabetes has skyrocketed past the national average.
Australian Bureau of Statistics and National Diabetes Service Scheme data shows 5.4 per cent of Australians are living with diabetes, which grew from four per cent in 2007-08 and 2.4 per cent in 1995.
Hindmarsh Shire has the highest percentage of the region's diabetics with 7.6 per cent of the population registering with the National Diabetes Service Scheme.
More than seven per cent of Northern Grampians Shire residents also have diabetes, while 6.4 per cent of Yarriambiack Shire residents and 6.3 per cent of Ararat Rural City residents suffer from the disease.
Horsham Rural City and West Wimmera Shire registered the Wimmera's lowest levels of diabetes with 5.9 per cent and 5.8 per cent respectively - still above the national average.
Of the Wimmera's diabetics, an average of 88.35 per cent have type two diabetes which is a lifestyle disease associated with high blood pressure and extra weight around the waist.
Horsham consulting pharmacist and herbalist Des Lardner said eating processed food could boost a person's likelihood of type two diabetes.
He said women whose girth was more than 88 centimetres and men whose girth was larger than 105 centimetres risked developing type two diabetes.
"It is caused by a combination of not enough exercise and a bad diet, particularly foods that have a high glycemic index," he said.
"Foods that are high on the glycemic index are generally more processed and are more profitable for supermarkets so they tend to stock more of those than the low glycemic index foods.
"The question is whether people should eat processed food that even bacteria won't eat, which is why it lasts so long."
Mr Lardner said the number of people suffering from diabetes had already exceeded health professionals' expectations.
"More than 300 million people worldwide have diabetes and we predicted that we wouldn't reach that number until 2015," he said.
"The number of people with diabetes is growing exponentially so there is not a lot of joy for health professionals.
"If you are overweight, under active and over 40, you are certainly in a risk factor area for diabetes."
Mr Lardner said people with type two diabetes were also more susceptible to sleep apnoea.
"About 80 per cent of the people who come into the clinic with sleep apnoea are diabetic," he said.