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Diabetes Could Surge in U.S. by 2050

CDC Projects Diabetes Rates Could Grow to 1 in 3 Americans
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 22, 2010 -- As many as one in three Americans could develop diabetes by 2050 unless a significant dent is made in the obesity epidemic, according to the latest CDC projections.

As it stands, one in 10 Americans has diabetes, but this could double -- or even triple -- by 2050 if current trends continue. These trends include the aging of the population, increasing rates of obesity, the fact that people with diabetes are living longer, and increases in the number of people belonging to minority groups at high risk for diabetes.

"The numbers are alarming," says Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of the CDC's division of diabetes translation.

"We really need to focus more attention and effort on prevention.”

Part of the increase in diabetes prevalence is positive in nature, she says. "People are living longer, and we are identifying diabetes earlier in course of the diseases and improving outcomes for those that have the disease."

"The major negative is the new cases of type 2 diabetes, and that is why prevention is so important," she says.

"If we don't work on prevention, these gains will be undermined.” Obesity is a major risk for type 2 diabetes, and it plays an important role in the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes.

Forecasting Diabetes Trends

Researchers used data on diabetes prevalence and U.S. census data to develop models of diabetes prevalence over the next 40 years. They came up with several estimates based on which way current trends move. For example, if current trends continue or increase, diabetes prevalence will increase from 14% in 2010 to up to 33% of the population by 2050. If, however, there were a leveling off of the number of new cases of diabetes each year, the proportion of the population with diabetes will still increase from 14% to 21%, the study shows.

Put another way: The number of Americans who have diabetes will increase to one in three or one in five by 2050 based on how many people are diagnosed with diabetes and how long they live after this diagnosis.

Certain lifestyle interventions have been proven to work, including the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program that began earlier this year, she says. This program focuses on reducing body weight by 5% to 7% by emphasizing dietary changes and by gradually building up to 150 minutes of physical activity per week. The program also focuses on developing coping and behavioral strategies to help deal with issues that cause people to backslide.

“It can reduce the development of diabetes by close to 60%,” she says. "It doesn’t say 'OK, here is the diet, we hope you can follow it,’” Albright says. "We actually help identify what their own barriers are.”

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