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Study: U.S. diabetes cases could triple by 2050

From Trisha Henry, CNN Medical Producer
  • Study: Nearly 6 million Americans have diabetes, but don't know it
  • The CDC says one in 10 adults currently has diabetes
  • The disease is at the heart of many medical issues

(CNN) -- If current obesity trends don't change, one in three American adults will have diabetes by 2050, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday.

Currently one in 10 adults has diabetes, and the CDC estimates about 23.6 million people in the United States are living with the disease.

Nearly 6 million of them don't know they have diabetes and 57 million Americans are headed for diabetes, or are pre-diabetic.

"Diabetes is at the heart of a lot of issues," said Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.

The disease is the top cause of blindness, lower limb amputations, heart attack and stroke, dementia and cancer, she said.

CDC researchers studied the rise in obesity in the United States in the study, published in the journal Population Health Metrics. They found that the number of Americans living with diabetes is expected to double and possibly even triple.

The overwhelming majority of people will develop Type 2 diabetes, where the body loses its ability to produce insulin. This is often the result of poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise.

Only about five to ten percent of people are born with Type 1 diabetes, which makes them unable to produce insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Albright said two factors contribute to the expected rise in diabetes cases: people are living longer and doctors are diagnosing them earlier.

Researchers found African-American, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native adults were twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes.

A large number of Type 2 cases can be prevented, and the CDC has a plan in place to help reduce the number of new cases and to help improve lifestyle choices so people will be more likely to eat healthy and exercise, Albright said.

These prevention efforts specifically target communities where access to healthy food and safe places to exercise aren't available, she said.