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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

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In 1988 to 1994, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was 5.5 percent. By the next survey in 1999 to 2004, that number had risen to 7.6 percent. In the final survey, done from 2005 to 2010, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was 9.3 percent.

During that same time period, levels of obesity also rose. For people without diabetes, obesity rates rose from about 21 percent in the first survey to over 32 percent in the last. In those with diabetes, nearly 44 percent were obese during the first survey. That number rose to about 61 percent in the most recent survey.

Rates of prediabetes also increased dramatically from less than 6 percent to more than 12 percent over the study period. However, the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes leveled off during the study period, likely due to improved screening methods. Overall, the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes was reduced to 11 percent by 2010, according to the study.

Other news from the study was that blood sugar management improved among whites, although those gains weren't seen in blacks or Mexican-Americans.

Results of the study appear in the April 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"The reality is that we know what to do to prevent type 2 diabetes, but doing it on a population level is an incredible challenge," Selvin said. "There's some evidence that the obesity epidemic may have plateaued, but combating the environment that contributes to obesity is an incredible difficulty."

Dr. Martin Abrahamson, senior vice president for medical affairs at the Joslin Diabetes Center, in Boston, is a co-author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.

"This article is a reminder that this problem isn't going away; it's only getting worse," Abrahamson said.

Like Selvin, he acknowledged that knowing you need to lose weight and exercise more -- and succeeding at making those changes -- are a challenge.

"There are too many pushes and pulls in society that make it difficult for people to adhere to lifestyle regimens. Adhering to a healthy diet and exercising regularly have all shown benefit in reducing diabetes, hypertension [high blood pressure], weight and cholesterol," Abrahamson said.

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