In 2003 alone, nearly 60% of new cases were obese, and an additional 30% were overweight.
Between 1997 and 2003, the incidence of diabetes among US adults jumped 41%, the investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Although it is not clear whether some of the increase could be due to changing diagnostic criteria or enhanced detection, "we’ve certainly seen an increase in obesity over the last few years, so we would expect to see an increase in diabetes," Dr. Linda S. Geiss told Reuters Health.
Dr. Geiss, along with her colleagues in Atlanta, evaluated data from the 1997-2003 National Health Interview Surveys to clarify the trends in diabetes incidence.
Among individuals age 18 to 79 years, the incidence rose from 4.9 to 6.9 per 1000 population, with the increase following a linear trend over time in most age groups, Dr. Geiss said.
After adjusting for age, the researchers found that diabetes incidence increased significantly among non-Hispanic whites, those with at least a high school education, nonsmokers, and obese persons, the investigators reported. The researchers saw increases among both men and women, and among those physically active and inactive.
"We thought that if there was extreme enhanced case detection going on that we would identify people with diabetes at a younger, healthier stage," Dr. Geiss noted. "We didn’t find much evidence for that."
"Recent research has shown that diabetes can be prevented or delayed through moderate lifestyle changes, like increasing weight loss and increasing exercise," she continued. Her group’s data suggest that "we need to focus on high risk folks and develop and deliver good lifestyle interventions to help stop the increasing incidence of diabetes."
Reported at the American Diabetes Association’s 65th Annual Scientific Sessions in San Diego, California.