Study shows large number of diabetics have yet to be diagnosed


WASHINGTON Almost 13% of U.S. adults ages 20 and older have diabetes, but 40% of them have yet to be diagnosed, according to epidemiologists from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing a new study released Monday.

The study incorporates newly available data from an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, NIH noted.

Diabetes is especially common in the elderly — nearly one-third of those age 65 and older have the disease. An additional 30% of adults have pre-diabetes, a condition marked by elevated blood sugar that is not yet in the diabetic range. The researchers report these findings in the February 2009 issue of Diabetes Care.

“We’re facing a diabetes epidemic that shows no signs of abating, judging from the number of individuals with pre-diabetes,” stated lead author Catherine Cowie, of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of the NIH. “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.”

In its analysis, the team also found that the rate of diagnosed diabetes increased between the surveys, but the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes and pre-diabetes remained relatively stable. Minority groups continue to bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, in non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican- Americans is about 70% to 80% higher than that of non-Hispanic whites.

Diabetes prevalence was virtually the same in men and women, as was the proportion of undiagnosed cases. Pre-diabetes is more common in men than in women (36% compared to 23%).

“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,” stated Griffin 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 conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The survey involved 7,267 people, who represented a national sample of persons age 12 years and older.

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