Oct. 31 -- THURSDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The rate of new cases of type 2 diabetes has nearly doubled in the United States in the last decade, with most new cases appearing in southern states, federal officials reported Thursday.
New diagnoses of type 2 diabetes rose from 4.8 per 1,000 people from 1995 to 1997 to 9.1 per 1,000 people from 2005 to 2007. These new cases mirror the increase in obesity rates, and obesity is a leading cause of the blood sugar disease, officials said.
"The risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity and inactivity, and we know the South has a high prevalence of both obesity and physical inactivity when compared to the other regions in the United States," said study author Karen Kirtland, a data analyst in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Diabetes Translation.
"The message that we want to get out is to promote lifestyle interventions for people who are at risk for diabetes," Kirtland said. "People who are at risk for the disease may be able to delay it or prevent it by losing weight, being physically active and making healthy food choices."
For the study, published in the Oct. 31 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Kirtland's group used the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to collect data on new diabetes cases in 33 states that reported data for both time periods.
The researchers said the state-by-state breakdown, the first of its kind, found that new cases of diabetes ranged from a low of five per 1,000 people in Minnesota to 12.7 per 1,000 in West Virginia. The territory of Puerto Rico had the largest number of new cases at 12.8 per 1,000 people.
The highest numbers of new type 2 diabetes cases were in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, the researchers found.
An estimated 23.6 million American adults and children have diabetes, but almost one-quarter of them are unaware they have the disease. In 90 percent to 95 percent of cases, people have type 2 disease.
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale University School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center, said reversing the obesity epidemic is key to cutting the rate of type 2 diabetes.
"We have known for some time that type 2 diabetes is a worsening epidemic in the United States and much of the world," Katz said. "We now have evidence that the rate at which new cases of diabetes are developing is also increasing."
Katz noted that southern states tend to have more poorer people than other sections of the country, a statistic that could contribute to the greater number of new diabetes cases in that region. "This is unsurprising, as obesity and poverty are strongly associated, and obesity is the predominant risk factor for type 2 diabetes," he said.
The new report could have frightening implications for future generations of Americans, Katz said. "With the entire adult population of the United States projected to be overweight or obese by 2048, should current trends persist, diabetes is a clear and present danger to us all. That threat will persist and worsen, until we resolve to turn back the tide of epidemic obesity," he said.
As the number of type 2 diabetes cases increase, so does the cost of treating the disease. Reporting in the Oct. 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers said the overall cost of drugs for type 2 diabetes almost doubled between 2001 and 2007. Yet, it's not clear if newer drugs improve patient care and results, the researchers said.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease caused by the body's inability to properly use the hormone insulin to transport sugar from the blood to cells for use as energy. Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are more prone to type 2 diabetes, as are people with a family history of the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Complications from the disease can include limb amputations, blindness, heart disease and kidney failure.
To learn more about type 2 diabetes, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
SOURCES: Karen Kirtland, Ph.D., data analyst, Division of Diabetes Translation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; Oct. 31, 2008, CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report