Diabetes Rates Expected to Soar

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Mark Harmel

Experts have been projecting a rise in diabetes cases for years now, owing largely to the growing number of overweight and obese individuals, who are at higher risk of developing the disease. But never before have the numbers soared this high—according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of Americans with diabetes will likely triple by 2050.

Currently, one in 10 adults has diabetes, a condition in which the body is unable to properly process the sugars found in food without the help of insulin injections. That number may climb to 33% of the adult population in a few decades. (More on Time.com: 6 Common Sources of Radiation In Your Life)

The reasons, say experts, are primarily population-based. First, the risk of diabetes increases with age, as the body becomes less efficient at breaking down glucose. So as the American population continues to live longer, incidence of diabetes will rise as well. Second, the proportion of minority groups who are at greater risk of developing diabetes due to obesity and other factors, are also growing, adding to the burgeoning cases. And finally, while more people may be developing the disease, those who do become diabetic are living longer thanks to more efficient and effective insulin delivery methods that help them control their blood sugar.

The projections are the most comprehensive yet to estimate diabetes prevalence in years to come—the researchers used the latest Census data from 2000, which includes the most recent annual updates from 2007, and incorporated the impact that minority groups as well as those with pre-diabetes, a condition that precedes diabetes, would have on prevalence of the disease. In addition, they factored in the impact that intervening at these early stages would have on the number of new cases, given that a large government study, the Diabetes Prevention Program conducted by the National Institutes of Health, recently reported that lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and increased exercise could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% in those most vulnerable to the condition.

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