Despite Obesity, Diabetes Not Rampant

But Many More Likely to Have Undiagnosed Symptoms of Diabetes

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 4, 2003 -- Americans may be overweight, but some of them are lucky. Despite the substantial proportion of adults with diabetes the number of people getting the disease is small.

That's the finding by the CDC today -- "unexpected" given the epidemic of obesity, which can lead to diabetes, the report states.

However, because diabetes develops relatively slowly, statistics in a few years will likely paint a different picture, points out an accompanying editorial.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, 8.2% of adults had a prediabetes condition -- or a diabetes diagnosis -- compared with 8.6% in 1999 to 2000. That's less than a half a percent increase.

Men and women were affected equally with diabetes. Non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans were affected disproportionately more than non-Hispanic whites.

Other data:

  • In 1999-2000, 21% of blacks, 19% of Mexican-Americans, and 13% of whites had diabetes.
  • In 1999-2000, an additional 6% of adults had prediabetes, as did 14% of adults over age 60. Those numbers are the same as the previous period.
  • Overall, in 1999-2000, an estimated 14% of Americans over age 20 and 34% of those over age 60 had either diabetes or prediabetes. These estimates fall in line with previous years.

Because fewer people were included in the 1999-2000 statistics, the report may be somewhat skewed, the CDC says. Also, a screening test for prediabetes was not performed in 1999-2000, so the true numbers are likely higher.

However, "the findings in this report indicate that the prevalence of diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed ... did not appear to increase substantially during the 1990s," the report states. "The apparent lack of increase ... is unexpected in light of the increasing prevalence of obesity and overweight in U.S. adults."

Future studies will likely show a much clearer picture, reflecting those with prediabetes -- as well as those who lost weight and made other lifestyle changes to reduce their risk, as stated in the editorial.

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC, Sept. 5, 2003; vol 52: pp 833-837.

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