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New American diabetes cases fall as obesity rises



This picture shows two overweight women in New York.

Mark Lennihan | AP

The number of new diabetes trials among American adults continues to decline, although obesity rates are rising and health officials are not sure why.

New federal data released on Tuesday found the number of new diabetes diagnoses dropped to approx. 1.3 million in 2017, down from 1.7 million in 2009.

Earlier studies had seen a decline and the new report shows that it has been underway for almost a decade. But health officials do not celebrate.

"The bottom line is that we do not know what drives these trends," says the chief author of the new report, Dr. Stephen Benoit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the options: Changes in testing and getting people to improve their health before they become diabetic.

The report was published by the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. The statistics run through 201

7. Last year's figures are not yet available, Benoit said.

Diabetes is a disease in which sugar builds up in the blood. The most common form is bound to obesity and the number of diabetics who are ballooned as obesity in the United States rose.

However, other factors may also have pushed annual diabetes diagnoses from 2000 to 2010, and they may partly explain why the numbers have been down since, some experts said.

First, diagnostic threshold was lowered at the end of the 1990s. It made more people count as diabetics, but the effect of it may have played out.

"We may have extinguished many of the previously unrecognized cases," and so recent diagnoses in recent years are more likely to be real new diseases, Dr. John Buse, an expert in North Carolina Diabetes Expert.

Meanwhile, doctors have increasingly used a recent blood test to diagnose diabetes. It is much easier than tests that required patients to fast for 12 hours or to undergo repeated blood pressure within two hours.

The American Diabetes Association recommended the new test, known as hemoglobin A1C blood pressure, for routine screening in 2010. Because it is easier to do, it is expected to lead to more diagnoses. But some experts say it may miss much of the early cases where people do not show symptoms. "You may have to miss people who would have been diagnosed with older tests," Benoit said.

Another option: Several doctors have increasingly been diagnosed with "prediabetes", a health condition where blood sugar is high, but not high enough to hit the diabetes limit. Doctors typically push such patients into exercise programs and encourage them to change their diet.

"Prediabetes becomes a more accepted diagnosis" and can cause an increasing number of patients to improve their health before they become diabetic, says Dr. Tannaz Moin, a UCLA expert.

The new report is based on a major national survey conducted by the government each year. Participants were asked if they had been diagnosed with diabetes and also if the diagnosis was made in the previous year.

It turned out that the number of new diabetes falls to 6 per cent. 1,000 US adults in 2017, from 9.2 per. 1,000 in 2009. It's a 35 percent drop and marks the longest fall since the government began tracking the statistics nearly 40 years ago, according to the CDC.

The decline was mainly seen among white adults, the researchers say.

The total estimate of how many Americans have diabetes – whether the diagnosis is new or not – has stuck to 80 per annum. 1,000 American adults. It translates to about 21 million Americans.


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