WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The rate of new cases of diabetes soared by about 90 percent in the United States in the past decade, fueled by growing obesity and sedentary lifestyles, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.
Diabetes experts said the findings show there is no end in sight to the diabetes epidemic.
Newly diagnosed cases of diabetes rose to 9.1 per 1,000 people annually between 2005 to 2007, up from 4.8 per 1,000 from 1995 to 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The most common form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, is closely linked to obesity and has become increasingly common in recent decades as more people become obese. An estimated 90 percent to 95 percent of the new cases are type 2 diabetes as opposed to type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes.
The report, based on data from 33 states, also detailed regional variations, showing — as other studies also have — that the problem is most acute in the southern United States.
Experts say that losing even modest amounts of weight and getting more physical exercise can help prevent diabetes but many people are not taking these steps.
“The hope and the message is that if people are kind of changing their lifestyles, doing the things that are good for them, then hopefully we can reverse the trend,” the CDC’s Karen Kirtland, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
American Diabetes Association spokesman Matt Petersen said: “Some day we’ll see a leveling off of diabetes incidence if the obesity rate levels out. But clearly it hasn’t started yet. We won’t see the plateau in type 2 diabetes for quite a while.”
Nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of new cases were in the South: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, which had highest rate among states at 12.7 per 1,000 people. Arizona was the only state in the highest 10 not in the South.
Minnesota had the lowest rate, at five per 1,000 people. The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico exceeded even West Virginia, with an annual new case rate of 12.8 per 1,000, the CDC said.
“I think what’s important about seeing where the incidence is high is it should be a guidepost about where we have to focus prevention efforts,” Petersen said.
The report was released three days after U.S. researchers found that while doctors are using a wider array of newer, more costly drugs to treat diabetes, there is little long-term proof they work better than older, cheaper medications.
Some common medications include metformin, which is available generically and also known by the Bristol-Myers Squibb brand name Glucophage.
There are newer diabetes drugs in a class called glitazones, which include Takeda’s Actos or pioglitazone, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Avandia, or rosiglitazone.
Avandia has been under fire over safety concerns, and the U.S. advocacy group Public Citizen on Thursday called for it to be banned. GlaxoSmithKline defended its safety.
The American Diabetes Association said 23.6 million U.S. children and adults — about 8 percent of the population — have diabetes.
Diabetics, whose blood sugar levels are too high, are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney damage and blindness.
Editing by Maggie Fox and Bill Trott