At Least Half of Americans Diabetic or Pre-Diabetic by 2020

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One liver failure, coming right up!

We have heard for years that diabetes is a serious problem in America, but people really do not like to listen. The result of such stupidity is 52% of Americans being diabetic or pre-diabetic by 2020, as predicted by United Health Group. That is more than two times the amount of diabetes cases registered in 2010 (24 million, in case you were wondering). What is really disturbing is that this trend is continuing despite rapid improvements in science and technology, all due to extremely poor lifestyle choices made by the majority of the population.

Diabetes is a metabolic condition characterized by an abnormally high blood sugar level, which disrupts the normal functioning of multiple organs. There are two main types of the disease. In Type I diabetes, the body simply does not produce enough insulin, the primary hormone in the body responsible for regulating the level of sugar within our bloodstream. This condition can usually be treated fairly effectively with supplemental insulin injections. Type I diabetes is a relatively rare immunological disorder. Sadly, however, 95% of diabetes cases are Type II diabetes, a mostly avoidable type of diabetes caused almost entirely by obesity and living an unhealthy lifestyle.

In Type II diabetes, the body’s cells simply become insensitive to insulin, and it does not matter how much of it the body produces, or someone injects into his or her self.  Normally, muscle cells are meant to store sugar, but in obese individuals, excess fat, which no longer fits in the body’s fat cells, is being stored in muscle. This prevents the muscle cells from using sugar for energy, as they are now made to use fat. All the sugar that would have been stored in the muscle is now left free to float around in the blood. The excess fat also blocks muscle cells’ insulin receptors, thus significantly lowering their sensitivity to insulin. Diabetes, over the course of many years, leads to a terrible bouquet of complications such as coronary heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and chronic wounds with a very possible development of gangrene. Sure, it all seems like a long way off, but if you ask me, a daily junk food fix is not worth the risk of having half your fingers and toes amputated by the time you reach sixty.

As much as we may hate to admit it, the comforts afforded by today’s post-industrial lifestyle come at a very high price. The average person’s day consists of sitting in an office chair for 8-10 hours and then migrating to the living-room couch to sit in front of the TV. This sedentary routine is interrupted usually only for meals, which consist of very liberal amounts of sugar and salted meats with little, if any, fruits or vegetables. The only time physical exertion enters into such average people’s lives is when they are exercising the gas pedal on the way to and from work, or, for those who are more fortunate, when they are taking the ten minute walk to the nearest subway station. Should it come as a surprise that almost 68% of Americans are subject to the number one risk factor of diabetes – obesity?

Type II diabetes is not a result of infection, nor can it really be chalked up to genetic pre-disposition. Contracting this disease or not depends almost entirely on the lifestyle one leads. A fairly recent study by the Salk Institute has described a second link between obesity and diabetes. Excess fat stores in the body hamper protein production, which, in turn, triggers the inappropriate start of gluconeogenesis, a biochemical pathway used for glucose synthesis. With such a strong correlation between diabetes and obesity, it is only common sense that the disease can be largely, if not 100%, prevented through proper lifestyle decisions. That means eating a healthy diet – significantly reducing consumption of refined sugars and saturated fats, eating more vegetables and foods rich in vitamins, especially A, C, and E, and incorporating regular exercise into one’s daily routine.

Let us briefly consider the economic side of the growing diabetes epidemic. The past year, $194 billion were spent on diabetes-related care alone, which already accounts for 7% of total US healthcare costs. That number is said to rise to $500 billion in 2020, totaling a lofty $3.4 trillion over the next ten years, all according to the same United Health Group report. To make it more understandable, on a personal scale, diabetes cost $8,000-$12,000 per year not counting the cost of prescription drugs. However, that is all just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine a country, more than half of whose population is suffering from a debilitating and expensive disease.  How productive will such people be in the country’s economy? How many days of work will have to be missed for health reasons? In fact, it is very likely that the rise in diabetes cases will be coupled with a marked decrease of production in most sectors of industry.

Living a long life has always been respectable, regardless of time, place, or occupation. All over the world, centenarians, those lucky individuals who live to see their 100th birthday, are recognized by gifts and certificates or official letters from their governments. However, in today’s post-industrial society, people have become too dependent on technology and medical innovations to prolong their lives. True, the last hundred years have witnessed astonishing progress: in 1911, we still rode horses as a main mode of transportation; in 2011, we send rockets to space every other week, but technology is still not at the level where it can miraculously fix all of our problems, nor will it be there any time soon. The most efficient way to live a long and, most importantly, healthy life is to make good lifestyle choices such as eating a correct diet and exercising regularly. There are no magic pills – at least not yet. Making the right choices is exactly how the residents of the so-called blue zones, which we have covered here at Singularity Hub before, achieve their longevity. Nevertheless, people continue to invest all of their hopes in technology while taking little to no responsibility for their health and making terrible lifestyle choices. The result is nearly 70% of Americans suffering from almost entirely preventable chronic illnesses such as heart disease, lung and liver cancer, and, of course, Type II diabetes.

Scared yet? You should be. This is a very real problem and not some fantasy concocted for a horror film by an insane writer. In the end, the one wielding the most power to affect a person’s health is himself, and the fact that a growing epidemic of such proportions is almost completely self-inflicted is ridiculous, not to say downright crazy. We are all very eager to reach the Singularity, but until we actually do, we have to learn to take responsibility for our actions, including our health, leaving medical devices such as the iPhone glucose tester and the silicon pancreas a no more than supporting role. Otherwise, we simply might not live long enough to see it.

[Image Credit: Sly Jones, Graham Richardson]

[Source: CDC, Salk Institute, United Health Group]

Discussion — 54 Responses

  • Maurice February 17, 2011 on 5:40 pm

    I really, really hope there’s a soda tax, fast food tax, or just plain fat tax on these disgusting medicaid draining self indulgent fat asses lumbering around America.

    Anyone else have ideas on how to curb this huge drain on society? Possibly forcing fat people to park farther away? The sad part is the only thing stopping actually solving the fat problem is that there are so many fat people that they are constituting a majority, in which case I propose obese people (barring other legitimate illnesses, being fat is not an illness it’s a repulsive life habit) have their own election booths on top of 200 foot tall stair cases.

    Come on people, we need ideas here!

    • TD Maurice February 17, 2011 on 7:20 pm

      I say we just stop being polite to fat people. Like if you work at Burger King and some 300 pound beast comes waddling up and orders a triple whopper, you should be like “You want cheese on that, fatass? Oh, duh, stupid question.”

      • Maurice TD February 18, 2011 on 3:55 am

        Being respectful to an issue is a better way to gain understanding, however the victims to the problem of obesity and diabetes are not always self-inflicted. Perhaps another solution is to target the fat industry themselves and impose taxes on buying artificial sweeteners and other processed chemicals that are shown to promote these conditions.

      • Love2Hate TD February 21, 2011 on 2:08 am

        Genocide is the answer. Lets all shoot a fat person today & go do our superior dance afterward.

      • Sarahcroucher58 TD March 7, 2011 on 9:18 pm

        You shouldent judge people thats messed up even if they are fattttttt lol its wrong i dont care who u are u can tell some on there fat being polite u dont haft to be rude to some one like a prick gosh i way 115 i must be super fat

    • robert veach Maurice March 8, 2011 on 5:04 am

      A rotten person Maurass (Maurice):

      Hey low brains, I am a type 2 diabetic that has a predisposition to it from hereditary genes. My uncle was as skinny as a rail and had it. My mother has it, my cousins have it. What this article fails to mention is a large proportion of the “medicaid draining self indulgent fat asses” get the disease not from stuffing their faces. Do a little research on your own before you say such a rotten ignorant thing.

  • Milt Bedingfield February 17, 2011 on 6:14 pm

    Great but sad article. The two biggest reasons for new onset diabetes and pre-diabetes is a lack of exercise and being overweight/ obese. Getting the word out and getting people to act on this information is the challenge we face. Those of us in the health field must continually work at this and not let up. Health care costs will be unimaginable with this many people having diabetes in 2020.

    • Maypullsirup Milt Bedingfield February 18, 2011 on 12:43 am

      “Getting the word out” is not a relevant issue because anyone who is not mentally retarded knows how to avoid obesity. Sorry, but being in “the health care field” does not make you a prophet.

    • Maypullsirup Milt Bedingfield February 18, 2011 on 12:43 am

      “Getting the word out” is not a relevant issue because anyone who is not mentally retarded knows how to avoid obesity. Sorry, but being in “the health care field” does not make you a prophet.

  • PJ February 17, 2011 on 6:27 pm

    There is absolutely a genetic predisposition to Type 2 Diabetes. It’s just that you don’t need the predisposition to get it. Obesity can also cause it. But Diabetes can also cause obesity (see last citation).

    I understand your anger. As a person with a family with that genetic predisposition, I’m pissed off, too. I’ve seen the difference taking care of yourself (or not) can make in my own family and I fight the good fight (exercise, eat right, etc.) to not get the disease. But you need to get your facts right.

    Off to exercise right now… :-)

    Sakagashira S, Sanke T, Hanabusa T, et al. (September 1996). “Missense mutation of amylin gene (S20G) in Japanese NIDDM patients”. Diabetes 45 (9): 1279–81. doi:10.2337/diabetes.45.9.1279. PMID 8772735.

    Cho YM, Kim M, Park KS, Kim SY, Lee HK (May 2003). “S20G mutation of the amylin gene is associated with a lower body mass index in Korean type 2 diabetic patients”. Diabetes Res. Clin. Pract. 60 (2): 125–9. doi:10.1016/S0168-8227(03)00019-6. PMID 12706321. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0168822703000196.

    Lyssenko V, Jonsson A, Almgren P, et al. (November 2008). “Clinical risk factors, DNA variants, and the development of type 2 diabetes”. The New England Journal of Medicine 359 (21): 2220–32. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0801869. PMID 19020324.

    McCarthy, M. I. (December 2010). Feero, W. G.; Guttmacher, A. E.. eds. “Genomics, Type 2 Diabetes, and Obesity”. The New England Journal of Medicine 363 (24): 2339–50. doi:10.1056/NEJMra0906948. PMID 21142536.

    Rother KI (April 2007). “Diabetes treatment—bridging the divide”. The New England Journal of Medicine 356 (15): 1499–501. doi:10.1056/NEJMp078030. PMID 17429082.

    Walley AJ, Blakemore AI, Froguel P (October 2006). “Genetics of obesity and the prediction of risk for health”. Human Molecular Genetics 15 Spec No 2: R124–30. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddl215. PMID 16987875.

    “Monogenic Forms of Diabetes: Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus and Maturity-onset Diabetes of the Young”. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH). http://www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/mody/.

    Barrett TG (September 2001). “Mitochondrial diabetes, DIDMOAD and other inherited diabetes syndromes”. Best Practice & Research. Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 15 (3): 325–43. doi:10.1053/beem.2001.0149. PMID 11554774.

    Camastra S, Bonora E, Del Prato S, Rett K, Weck M, Ferrannini E (December 1999). “Effect of obesity and insulin resistance on resting and glucose-induced thermogenesis in man. EGIR (European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance)”. Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 23 (12): 1307–13. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0801072. PMID 10643689.

    • Maurice PJ February 17, 2011 on 6:31 pm

      There’s not a genetic disposition in 50% of Americans, this is obvious. I do commend you for putting up an effort to fix the issue of obesity (I also exercise, for the sole sake of being healthy and feeling good rather than losing weight), but the majority of people will come up with an excuse rather than tackling the problem. Also, you CAN change your genetics in certain ways by changing your lifestyle. Again, if you’re doing this, I encourage you to keep at it.

  • thrill February 17, 2011 on 6:33 pm

    What sort of writer leads off by calling 52% of the audience he wants to positively influence stupid?

    • Maypullsirup thrill February 18, 2011 on 12:45 am

      An honest one.

      • Love2Hate Maypullsirup February 21, 2011 on 2:05 am

        Gosh! Can’t hate fags or niggers any more so lets hate fat people! EVERYBODY HATE!!!! Good times…

  • Ascendant February 17, 2011 on 9:38 pm

    One of the biggest (heh) causes of our obesity and diabetes epidemic is the major misconceptions most people have about losing weight. It simply cannot be reduced down to “eat less and exercise more.” Although those are important components of losing weight, telling people that will make it more difficult, not less, for them to really lose weight. The reason for this is that what you eat is far more important than how much you eat. And when you tell someone to eat less, it fails to solve the problem of the makeup of their diet, and it exacerbates the problem by slowing down their metabolism and wasting muscle–meaning that when they stop dieting, they’ll gain back more than they lost. The majority of diets end this way, according to various studies.

    In addition, a substantial amount of scientific evidence demonstrates powerfully that the primary mechanisms behind insulin resistance, Syndrome X, prediabetes, obesity, etc. is the overconsumption of carbohydrates. That’s not a problem you can solve by cutting down on refined sugars alone. Rather, our excessive intake of grains and starches in combination with our overconsumption of sugar is responsible. We’re not evolved to process grains very well. Saturated fat alone plays a very small role in comparison. Indeed, saturated fat is not likely to cause a problem unless combined with an overconsumption of carbohydrates. Carbs raise insulin levels, which causes the energy in the saturated fat to be stored as fat in the body. Insulin and grain raise levels of inflammation, which contributes further to insulin resistance and heart disease. The only role saturated fat (or rather, cholesterol, which is weakly linked to consumption of saturated fat) plays in heart disease (or, at least, the majority of it) is enabled by this inflammation. Cut out the carbs and the cycle of inflammation, insulin resistance, heart disease, and all manner of degenerative diseases exacerbated or caused by inflammation will be ended.

    • Anonymous Ascendant February 18, 2011 on 4:30 am

      Indeed. Everyone is insisting that we need to eat healthy, but there’s a lot of disagreement about what a healthy diet really looks like. Low carb and Paleo diets are pretty much saying the problem is not with fat and meat, but with bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, and sugar.

      The standard healthy diet is just fine with sugars and starches, and it may be completely wrong. Could be that this very advice, eating more carbs and less fat, is the cause of the obesity epidemic itself.

      The thing is that the eat healthy and get more exercise advice has been around for decades, and it has manifestly failed to shrink waistlines. It seems more like a moral crusade to me, and less like science.

      I’m not sure the low carb proponents are right, either, but they may be on to something in questioning the conventional diet wisdom.

    • Kostas Ascendant March 2, 2011 on 9:13 pm

      The scientific evidence I have found say something different than that.
      Refined carbs are indeed problematic but not ALL carbs are.
      On the contrary high-carb diets have managed to improve blood sugar levels or even reverse Type II diabetes. Fiber seems to play an important blood sugar regulatory factor.
      Have a look at the following:
      http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/171/6/701.abstract
      http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/7/1311.abstract
      http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777.abstract
      http://www.pritikin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=349:reversing-diabetes-carbs-are-good-for-you&catid=42:nutrition&Itemid=65

    • Sseraph Ascendant March 5, 2011 on 9:42 pm

      Well yes and good point but it is not rocket science that half pound burgers with jumbo fries and a large soda are very unhealthy choices as is munching through an entire bag of chips. Some 85% of the stuff in your grocery store isn’t a whole lot better.

  • dwmoskowitz February 17, 2011 on 10:22 pm

    The good news is that diabetes can be delayed, and its complications prevented, especially kidney failure. The bad news is that my 2002 paper still hasn’t made it out of the medical literature to the lay press (see http://tinyurl.com/healthcrime for who’s kept quiet about it since 2002). Anybody worried about diabetes or high blood pressure, please contact GenoMed (www.genomed.com). Our goal is to make the world dialysis-free by 2020.

  • Blah February 18, 2011 on 12:52 am

    “…all due to extremely poor lifestyle choices made by the majority of the population.”

    Let’s not forget the corporations making our food….and how they stuff them full of sweeteners, and then have marketing down to a science to get us to want to eat them. It’s not just the poor lifestyle choices…it’s sometimes the only choice we have in the food we buy.

    A tax on soda, fast food and junk food is interesting….but that just makes it even harder for the Average Joe. How about a tax on sweeteners purchased by corporations who produce food? Something that might force them to use less….

  • Maypullsirup February 18, 2011 on 12:58 am

    So, if I am understanding this correctly, you can give yourself type II diabetes via an unhealthy lifestyle, whether or not you are genetically predisposed towards it or not… but you can also inherit a genetic predisposition for type II from your parents if they developed it themselves via an unhealthy lifestyle even if they were not born with a genetic disposition for it?
    And if this is the case, shouldn’t deteriorating our human gene pool be considered a crime against humanity? If so, I would think that people that have created genetically defective humans out of laziness and ignorance ought to be brought to Nuremberg for hearings.

  • Steve February 18, 2011 on 1:10 am

    great article. I hate to blame the “victim” but I agree that a large reason for the rise in diabetes is piss poor decision making, stupidity and laziness. When I was growing up, I was picked on because I was small for my age. I had absolutely no control over my genes and when I would hit puberty but I took care of my health because I looked to the future and I told myself that I would grow one day. Fortunately that day came. I hit my growth spurt, my height shot up to five foot eleven and my weight went from 85 pounds at age 16 to 165 pounds at age 20. While I was growing, I noticed a lot of the people who bullied me were getting fatter and fatter. These people liked to do “what felt good” and as far as I could tell they could not resist instant gratification. Nobody was making these people eat fast food everyday, smoke and drink but those were the kinds of activities they were engaging in because they were untouchable and life was one big hedonistic party. Unfortunately, while making fun of small people is considered acceptable in America, telling fat people to stop eating so much and start exercising is not acceptable. Since fat people now make up the majority of this country, any suggestion that Americans cut down on their gluttony is considered a mean spirited attacks on the kind, innocent, moral, folksy people that are true patriots. While I acknowledge the role genetics and environmental factors play in the the obesity crisis, laziness and an inability to resist food that tastes good plays a larger role. Unless people start taking more personal responsibility for their decisions concerning health, nothing will change. Rant over.

    • Steve Steve February 18, 2011 on 1:18 am

      crap, I hate typos. “Attacks” should be “attack” and the “plays” in the third to last sentence should be “play”. I wish I could edit my response

      • Keith Kleiner Steve February 18, 2011 on 1:37 am

        Look more closely. There should be an “edit” button next to the “reply” button for your comments. At least there is for me.

        • Steve Keith Kleiner February 18, 2011 on 1:58 am

          thanks for the advice but I still can’t find it. I’ll just leave it as is

  • freebesthealth February 18, 2011 on 8:31 am

    Controlled life is the key to healthy life in all respect. We need to control our intake of food, be choosy about it, and also adhere strict exercise regime, then only not only diabetes but any kind of disease can be controlled or kept away from our personal health.

  • Kip February 19, 2011 on 11:38 pm

    This author confuses ‘risk factors’ with causes. Being overweight is a ‘risk factor’ for Type II diabetes, but not the cause — not even a cause. Obese people have a stronger tendency to become diabetic, but do not become diabetic because they are overweight. There have been studies that suggest that it is possible that the precursors of Type II diabetes actually also bring on obesity — in other words, the cause of Type II diabetes also causes the observed obesity.

  • PseudoAnon February 20, 2011 on 1:02 am

    I’ve slimmed almost 80kg (and thus nearly reached my end goal of 10kg body fat), but in the last time I focussed on my studies and gained 20kg. Thanks for this article in particular [though singularityhub is the best page I've come across, so thanks for the rest and to the other authors as well] – you’re absolutely right. It’s so easy to lose focus and become weak. Time to hit the gym and finish this project. If it had been academic in nature I’d never have accepted this development – the way it is I thought of it as merely a matter of outer appearance, but as previously stated: You’re right. Thanks for the reminder, needed it, will heed your kind advice, before I increment the number of diabetes cases by one.

  • SophieB February 20, 2011 on 3:50 pm

    Hurray! Another ignorant, sensationalist article about how we’re all fat and diseased because . Might as well just write, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME” until you’ve reached your word limit for posting articles, as you’ve offered no valuable new information here whatsoever.

    Why don’t you do some reading. I suggest starting here:

    http://www.garytaubes.com/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=diabetes%20inflammation
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=inflammation%20diet

    Enjoy.

    • Keith Kleiner SophieB February 20, 2011 on 3:56 pm

      Yay, another person who doesn’t want to take personal responsibility for health and obesity! Instead of admitting that obesity comes from eat crappy food and a sedentary lifestyle, you want to point me to Gary Taubes’ ridiculous theories. Good luck with that. In the meantime, I’ll be at the gym.

  • Raul H Macias February 20, 2011 on 4:49 pm

    Scary

  • iRobbie February 20, 2011 on 6:49 pm

    As a British person myself, I did notice a couple of things when I visited America for my first time in May 2010:

    American portions are absolutely ridiculous compared to british portions. My first meal in america and the waitress brings me lemonade in a jug so i asked for a glass and she replied ‘thats not a jug thats your glass’. Seriously?! I also went to this American dinner that was open at 1 AM?! They served UNLIMITED pancakes that were the size of my head.

    If Americans/American restraints didn’t serve ridiculously sized portions then their bodies wouldn’t be ridiculously sized either. Simples.

    • Maurice iRobbie February 21, 2011 on 2:39 pm

      you’re right, that is a big part of the problem. People are taught as a child to finish their plates and when a meal is presented it is viewed as the status quo what someone “should” eat. Of course this completely backfires when restaurants serve ridiculous amounts that people feel expected (and obligated, as they did pay for it) to eat. It’s disgusting how much Americans regularly consume.

      • Anonymous Maurice February 21, 2011 on 6:17 pm

        I too was a member of the “clean your plate club” as my parents taught me, however, I saw the light and fortunatley have been thin my entire life. One way to control portions is to insist that manufactures once again readily produce 8 or 9 inch dinner plates. When I was child, this was the standard size. Now I can’t even find plates less than 12 inches. Try putting a 3 oz piece of salmon on one of these..it looks like there’s nothing on it!

        It is true that Americans are fat and geting fatter but obesity and diabetes are also becoming epidemic across the globe–yes iRobbie–even in Britain. This problem must be dealt with globally.

    • declancostello iRobbie March 6, 2011 on 4:24 pm

      When IKEA opened in the US they noticed they were selling more than usual numbers of a particular glass vase.

      It turns out that lots of people were brining them home and using them as drinking glasses.

      I believe eating out is a lot more common in the US compared to other countries.

  • Anonymous March 3, 2011 on 11:51 pm

    LOL guyz pls dont confuse America with Canada k? Canada is awesome and dosent invest 1 in every 6 $ to weaponry

  • Anonymous March 6, 2011 on 4:23 pm

    Low-carb diets have proven time and time again to provide sustainable weight loss while reducing risks of heart disease. Read any book by Gary Taubes and the studies he points to.
    This diabetes epidemic is purely a high carb exponent.

  • Tarchon March 7, 2011 on 7:35 pm

    It’s not true that it “can’t be chalked up to genetic pre-disposition.” Genetic predisposition is extremely important with this disease.

  • robert veach March 8, 2011 on 1:59 am

    From a rotten person Maurass (Maurice): I really, really hope there’s a soda tax, fast food tax, or just plain fat tax on these disgusting medicaid draining self indulgent fat asses lumbering around America.

    From me: Hey low brains, I am a type 2 diabetic that has a predisposition to it from hereditary genes. My uncle was as skinny as a rail and had it. My mother has it, my cousins have it. What this article fails to mention is a large proportion of the “medicaid draining self indulgent fat asses” get the disease not from stuffing their faces. Do a little research on your own before you say such a rotten ignorant thing.

  • HEALTHREFORM April 13, 2011 on 2:54 pm

    Diabetes is already being reversed with diet alone by a filmmaker. It is now used in 10 couuntries WITHOUT MEDICATIONS. The drug makers do not promote the story see here http://spirithappy.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/i-have-tried-everything-to-lose-weight-heres-why-spirit-happy-diet-worked-while-others-did-not/

    or just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET