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Diabetes rates soar, obesity partly to blame

Doctor examining overweight patientCases of diabetes and pre-diabetes have almost doubled over the last two decades. Experts say obesity is likely behind the increase.

“Prior research has shown that obesity is the major cause of the diabetes epidemic,” said lead author Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Our study demonstrates how closely these two epidemics are intertwined.”

She added that the increase in diabetes very closely tracks with the increase in obesity.

Since 1988, diabetes went up from 6 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. population. Similarly, cases of pre-diabetes doubled during this time.

“The most important findings of our study are the major increase in diabetes over the past 20 years and that currently there are 21 million adults with diabetes in the United States,” said Selvin.

Another key discovery is that the condition is not distributed equally in the population. According to Selvin, the study revealed major racial disparities. A much higher prevalence of diabetes was observed among African Americans and Mexican Americans. These populations also had poorer rates of glucose control. Researchers say this is particularly concerning since ethnic minorities are at higher risk for diabetes complications.

The results from the study weren’t all bad. On the upside, the number of diabetes cases that are undiagnosed has actually gone down. To determine this, investigators looked at glucose levels from the previous three months to make this estimation. It revealed that just 11 percent of diabetes cases nationwide are undiagnosed.

“This suggests we’re doing better with screening and diagnosis overall,” said Selvin.

By Marianne Hayes