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Nearly 10% of U.S. Adults Now Have Diabetes: Study

Researchers found a nationwide rise of the disease since late 1980s, and a parallel rise in obesity

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of Americans with diabetes has doubled since 1988, with nearly one in 10 adults now diagnosed with the blood-sugar disease, researchers report.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the rate of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes was 5.5 percent of the U.S. population. By 2010, that number had risen to 9.3 percent. That means 21 million American adults had confirmed diabetes in 2010, according to the researchers.

Several encouraging findings emerged from the study, however. A smaller proportion of people have undiagnosed diabetes, the report found, suggesting that newer screening techniques may be more efficient.

And the researchers found that overall blood sugar control was improved, although the disease was less well controlled in some minority groups.

"Diabetes has increased dramatically. The rates have almost doubled since the late '80s and early '90s," said Elizabeth Selvin, the study's lead author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.

"This study also highlights that the increase in diabetes really tracks closely with the epidemic of obesity. The diabetes epidemic is really a direct consequence of the rise in obesity," Selvin said.

There are two main types of diabetes -- type 1 and type 2. Type 2 diabetes is the far more prevalent type of diabetes, accounting for 90 percent to 95 percent of all diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Education Program.

Although both types of the disease result in higher-than-normal levels of blood sugar, the cause of each is different. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, and its development is unrelated to weight. The exact cause of type 2 is unknown, but excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle are known to play a role in its development.

Poorly controlled diabetes poses serious health risks, including heart disease, kidney damage and blindness.

For the new study, the researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which included more than 43,000 adults followed from the first survey period (1988 to 1994) to the most recent (1999 to 2010).

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