Diabetes or prediabetic conditions will strike half of all adult Americans by the end of the decade unless people lose weight, said UnitedHealth Group, the largest U.S. health insurer by sales.
The disease will cost the nation almost $3.4 trillion in the 10 years through 2020, with more than 60 percent paid for by the U.S. government, according to a study released yesterday by the Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer. The number of Americans with high blood sugar will rise 44 percent to 135 million in 2020, from 93.8 million in 2010, researchers said.
Diabetes is growing as the U.S. population skews older and fatter, said Simon Stevens, executive vice president of the company's Center for Health Reform & Modernization. About 28 million adult Americans, or 12 percent, are currently diabetic while 66 million others, or 28 percent, are prediabetic, according to the study. Prediabetics can lower the odds of getting diabetes by losing weight, he said.
"There is nothing inevitable" about the rise in diabetes, Stevens said by phone. "Even quite modest changes, like losing 5 percent of body weight, have the potential of producing decreases. If we don't take obesity seriously, we risk our children living shorter lives than we parents have lived."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a study on Oct. 22 saying new cases will more than double by 2050, afflicting at least 1 in 5 adults. That amounts to as many as 75 million by mid-century. The CDC's estimate of the number of adults with diabetes now is at least 32 million, according to the study.
"The message for everyone is that we need to take this issue seriously as a country, "said Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.