Diabetes to Skyrocket as Americans Avoid Diet, Exercise

A new federal report predicts unhealthy lifestyles will lead to a sharp increase in type 2 diabetes over the next 40 years.

A new federal report predicts unhealthy lifestyles will lead to a sharp increase in type 2 diabetes over the next 40 years.

The number of adults with diabetes could double or triple by 2050, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Type 2 diabetes is expected to drive the surge as more Americans fail to meet federal guidelines for nutrition and physical activity.

“We project that, over the next 40 years, the prevalence of total diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) in the United States will increase from its current level of about one in 10 adults to between one in five and one in three adults in 2050,” wrote CDC researcher James Boyle, PhD.

Although much of the increase can be attributed to patients with diabetes growing older, more must be done to “change the course of type 2 diabetes,” said Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. Although the responsibility ultimately falls on patients to establish healthier habits, federal initiatives must also be developed to create infrastructure that supports positive choices.

Greater effort is needed to implement “successful programs to improve lifestyle choices on healthy eating and physical activity must be made more widely available because the stakes are too high and the personal toll too devastating to fail,” Dr. Albright said. Previous research has shown that diabetes disproportionately impacts poor and minority communities, where access to fresh food and safe outdoor spaces for exercise remains a challenge.

Among the many incentives for turning the tide on diabetes are the enormous medical costs associated with the disease. According to the report, diabetes cost the United States more than $174 billion in 2007 alone. Growth in the prevalence of diabetes is expected to take “an increasingly large financial toll in subsequent years,” Dr. Boyle wrote.