October 22nd, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Diabetes numbers expected to triple by 2050

One in three American adults is projected to have diabetes by 2050, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Friday.  An aging population, diabetics living longer and the increasing number of at-risk minorities are the main factors contributing to the rise according to the report.  However the prevalence of obesity in the United States also plays a role.

“Obesity is a significant contributor to the new cases of diabetes. It is certainly a factor,” Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation tells CNN.

Currently 1 in 10 adults has diabetes and the CDC estimates about 23.6 million people in the United States are living with the disease. 

“Certainly the fact that diabetes prevalence is increasing and is likely to continue to increase into the future isn’t really surprising,” said Dr. M. Sue Kirkman, vice president of clinical affairs at the American Diabetes Association. “The absolute numbers in terms of the projections, are, of course, concerning and shocking.”

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations, according to the CDC website.

Part of the reason more people will have diabetes in 2050 is that people are living longer than they used to with the condition, a trend that will continue, Kirkman said. Doctors also are diagnosing the condition earlier, Albright said.

Diabetic? Take this test to see how well you're managing your condition

Almost 6 million don't know they have diabetes according to the CDC and 57 million Americans are prediabetic, meaning they are headed for the condition.  In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be officially diagnosed as diabetes, Kirkman said.

CDC researchers examined the rise in obesity in the United States in the study, published in the journal Population Health Metrics. They found that the number of Americans living with diabetes is expected to double and possibly even triple by 2050. The overwhelming majority of these people will develop type 2 diabetes, where the body loses its ability to produce insulin.

Proper management of type 2 diabetes includes a healthy diet and possibly medication – either oral pills or insulin shots. Physical activity is also important, Kirkman said.

Aside from ethnic background, risk factors include having a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. The most common risk factor is simply being overweight.

Women with a history of gestational diabetes, a temporary form of the condition that sometimes occurs during pregnancy, are also at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone, even without other risk factors, should get screened by age 45. But if you are overweight and have a family history, you might want to get tested earlier.

The connection between diabetes, heart problems and stroke has been highlighted in much research, but scientists do not know the exact mechanism behind it, Kirkman said. One contributing factor is that high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are also risk factors for both diabetes and heart disease. Both women and men with diabetes are at elevated risk of heart attack and stroke.

Excess fat around the midsection is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, as the visceral fat wrapped around the internal organs can pose a problem, and it increases insulin resistance.

Here are eight common diabetes questions answered

The projected rise of diabetes among minorities is particularly concerning, Albright said.  Researchers found African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes.

The cost of treating diabetes is expected to triple, according to a 2009 report. Treatment requires constant monitoring - checking and recording blood sugar level several times weekly or daily, insulin therapy or even dialysis if diabetes leads to kidney failure.

Only about 5 to 10 percent of diabetics have 1 diabetes; their bodies do not produce insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes is at the heart of a lot of health issues, but these predictions do not have to come true, Albright said.

A large number of type 2 cases can be prevented, she said. A smart nutritious diet and moderate exercise, even just 30 minutes a day of vigorous walking, can help maintain proper blood sugar levels and help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Albright said the CDC has a plan in place to help reduce the number of new cases and to help improve lifestyle choices so people will be more likely to eat healthy and exercise. These prevention efforts specifically target communities where access to healthy food and safe places to exercise aren't available.

soundoff (281 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Our understanding of Diabetes as caused by starch and sugar might be wrong. There are civilizations that dwell on these foods, rice and flour, but are low in diabetes. I am referring to China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan. It is likely that overweight is the major cause. If America could shed 280 million pounds of body weight (that's one lb per person) every 5 years, the situation will be reversed.

    October 24, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Joe La Grone

    Granted, genetics play a role. But so do exercise, moderation in eating, and a proper diet. The explosion of the fast food industry, processed foods, an over abundance of high sugar drinks combined with a sedentary society contribute greatly to this bleak picture. Question: The networks and cable channels beat their breasts about the horrors of this situation.
    When is the last time they refused to carry ads for the fast food joints and other products that are known to contribute to onset of diabetes? They are doing with this topic what they did with tobacco, especially cigarettes for years and years. Moralizing and all the while reaping gross obscene profits do not square with reason and logic. And when is the last time the Food and Drug Administration and the FDA made a move to label products as contributors to diabetes. We need leadership, education to buttress this whole matter.

    October 24, 2010 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. jen


    October 24, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Janet

      Jen, if you explore the whole grocery store, not just the chips/soda/cookies aisles, you'll find plenty of natural, healthy foods available to ALL shoppers. I don't think that the extent of high fructose corn syrup that is consumed is healthy, far from it, but I also don't think it is really worse than the same amount of any other kind of sugar. The problem is that so many people now think a 'big gulp' is a normal thing to consume.

      October 25, 2010 at 00:39 | Report abuse |
  4. TJ

    I'm sick and tired of people criticing those of us who need to lose weight. Losing weight is not easy, it is a life-long strugle. Even bariatric surgery doesn't work. The majority of people who have bariatric surgery regain the weight they lost during the starvation period after the surgery. I've been extremly overweight since I was a baby although I was at a normal weight when born (7lb 10oz), is that my fault? I remained overweight throughout my childhood, that's not my fault. So of course being an overweight child lead to being an overweight adult.

    Food is processed with lots of salt and corn syrup, it is practically impossible to lead a normal life and not eat processed food. Nobody has time to work full time and cook from scratch, plus foods cooked from scratch does not taste as good as processed food taste.

    Not everyone who is obese suffers from diabetes. I've been tested for diabetes and the tests are always negative for diabetes. Now having said that, I realize that I need to lose some weight but losing weight and changing habits is hard. I've tried various diets and they don't work. Exercise really doesn't burn up that many calories even if you are obese because you simply can sustain a high rate of exertion. If you're obese you are going to walk slow so if you are even able to walk 30 manutes on a treadmill you're only going to burn up 200-300 calories. The only way to lose a significant amount of weight is to practically starve yourself. Not to mention counting calories is a pain in the butt.

    October 24, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. BlueSky

    American save money on food to spend money on health care.

    October 24, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      Very true! I know I am! Which actually makes me go to the Farmers market to buy fresh vegetables, fresh meats and breads. everything can be frozen and cooked. A lot cheaper than going to McDonalds or fast food places every day.

      October 24, 2010 at 20:46 | Report abuse |
  6. David

    If we as American's keep feeding the Obesity epidemic then we have only ourselves to blame for rising health care costs. In the majority of the obesity cases, there is no excuse for it. If someone is obese due to sheer gluttonous behavior then they should be paying more out of their pockets for health care. If people want health care to be a right in the country, then everyone needs to take care of their bodies properly.
    I think the Ultimate problem we are facing is that we have come so far socially, scientifically and technologically that the week are living longer. I know they weren't as wide spread as they are now but in centuries past what happened to these obese people? We are now facing the consequences of letting obesity go for so long. So long in fact that they are living longer, getting Diabetes and now healthy people need to foot this bill.

    October 24, 2010 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ted

    Obama said last week that Americans are ignorant and can't see and appreciate the wonderful things , such as Health care he has passed.....Now TODAY...Obama supporters are saying that WOMEN ( all) are not voting and insinuating women are more stupid than all other Americans.....Perhaps this belief comes from being around Nancy P. so much...or probably his Muslim upbringing that women are Very Ignorant, property only and may be treated as a man well pleases......So WHY would ANY woman vote for a person or party like this..?? Next women will be required to wear Burqas and learn to avoid rocks.

    October 25, 2010 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. commojoe

    Well, sure, if we, as a country, continue to stuff our collective faces with fat-rich, starch-laden food, then we're going to get even more sloppy, dusgustingly overweight cows among the population who are going to cost all of us, ultimately, in health care dollars. Stop stuffing your fat faces, people, get your tails off the couch and find a REGULAR exercise regimen that you can stick to, and you won't have this problem. And don't give that heredity excuse, that's ONLY a predisposition, not a certainty. Exercise, eat less and in a more healthful way, and you'll be okay.

    October 25, 2010 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Raleigh R. Pinskey

    A case study in the feature film/documentary Forks Over Knives, shows Joey Aucoin, a landscaping company owner, diagnosed in 2006 with dangerously high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Drs. Matthew Lederman and Alona Pulde (in Forks Over Knives), immediately took him off his daily 9 pills and 2 injections and put him on a plant base, whole foods protocol and exercise. Joey was diabetes free of diabetes in 22 weeks, and all his numbers were dramatically down. There are several other case studies in the film dealing with heart disease, hypertension and breast cancer, all reversals served my a whole foods, plant based nutrition protocol. Sure turned my head. I became a Forks Over Knives team member and I can feel the difference.

    October 28, 2010 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ann

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    simulates diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy, destroys the optic
    nerve, causes diabetics to go into convulsions and even interacts
    with insulin. They lose limbs because of the free methyl
    alcohol. Suit was filed against the American Diabetes Assn in 2004
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    ADA had been told for years what it does to diabetics, especially by
    Dr. Roberts. They even refused to publish his abstract of aspartame
    diabetic reactors. It was published in Clinical Research. Dr.
    Roberts resigned after 35 years in disgust. The ADA has the
    opportunity to help diabetics and instead helps the aspartame
    industry where they get funding.

    October 28, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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