doctor advising an overweight patient

Improved Survey Shows 'Huge Burden of Diabetes,' NIH Says

A new survey completed by epidemiologists from the National Institutes of Health and CDC says 13 percent of U.S. adults age 20 and older have diabetes, and 40 percent of them have not been diagnosed. The study includes new data from the two-hour Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, which gives more information about blood glucose abnormalities than the fasting blood glucose (FBG) test, according to NIH. Two-hour glucose readings that are high but not yet diabetic show a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and of developing diabetes than a high, but not yet diabetic, fasting glucose level, according to the agency.

"We're facing a diabetes epidemic that shows no signs of abating, judging from the number of individuals with pre-diabetes," said lead author Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is an NIH unit. "For years, diabetes prevalence estimates have been based mainly on data that included a fasting glucose test but not an OGTT. The 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, is the first national survey in 15 years to include the OGTT. The addition of the OGTT gives us greater confidence that we're seeing the true burden of diabetes and pre-diabetes in a representative sample of the U.S. population."

The researchers said pre-diabetes is more common in men (36 percent) than women (23 percent), and about 16 percent of youths ages 12-19 have it. Diabetes among this young age group is rare. Diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, is about 70-80 percent higher among African-Americans and Mexican-Americans than among whites.

"These findings have grave implications for our health care system, which is already struggling to provide care for millions of diabetes patients, many of whom belong to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or minorities," said Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the NIDDK. "Of paramount importance is the need to curb the obesity epidemic, which is the main factor driving the rise in type 2 diabetes."

The study is based on 2005-2006 data from the NHANES, which is conducted by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. The survey involved 7,267 people who represented a national sample of persons ages 12 and older.

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