A Hopeful Follow-up to Grim
In a development that may well have influenced companies like Coca-Cola to aggressively pursue obesity academics for Coke-funded research and favorable assessments in the media, the amount of soda Americans drink has declined by about 25% since the late 1990s, when no or little such public image campaigning needed undertaking.
The greater effect of heightened public awareness of the value of steering clear of sugary soft drinks, though (among other factors), may be the recent drop in new cases of diabetes. As reported by the CDC in December—and just after Running & FitNews® reported the unsettlingly high National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys numbers through 2012—the rate of new diabetes cases has now fallen by about a fifth from 2008 to 2014, the first sustained decline since the disease started to explode in the U.S. about 25 years ago.
A modest decline in cases
Because it has been a gradual drop over the last several years, the improvement in the nation’s health had not previously been big enough for any one year to achieve statistic meaningfulness. But new data for 2014 confirms that the decline is real: There were 1.4 million new cases of diabetes in 2014, down from 1.7 million in 2008.
The percentage of U.S. adults with diabetes or prediabetes, at a whopping 48% as of 2012, remains disconcerting to say the least. What we are looking at is a slowdown of a huge problem of affluence that will continue to be difficult to combat.
For example, the prevalence of obesity has continued to rise in even the most recent years (though no longer significantly so). In 1999 to 2000, 31% of U.S. adults were obese. By 2009 to 2010, the figure increased to 36%. This time examining NHANES data from 2011 to 2014, the CDC found that obesity prevalence had inched up to 38% in 2013 to 2014, but the difference between these most recent years was not statistically significant.
During this same three-year period, the prevalence of obesity was higher for women (38%) than for men (34%), and for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics relative to other ethnic groups. The obesity prevalence for youth aged 2 to 19 years held steady at 17%, with prevalence increasing with age.
And it’s worth a note of caution that the portion of Americans with diabetes in 2014 was still more than double what it was in the early 1990s. The CDC report points out that educated Americans have seen improvements, for example, while the rates for the less educated have flattened but not declined.
Women and diabetes’ ill effects
Women with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely as diabetic men to have coronary heart disease, according to a new statement from the American Heart Association, published in Circulation.
Among other surprising gender differences:
- Heart attack (M.I.) occurs earlier and is deadlier in diabetic women than men.
- Diabetic women have a higher excess risk for incident heart failure. In the Framingham Heart Study, risk was five times as high in diabetic versus nondiabetic women, and twice as high in diabetic versus nondiabetic men.
- Diabetic women are less likely to have well-controlled blood glucose and blood pressure.
- Diabetic women may require more physical activity than men to lower their cardiovascular risk.
For example, the Nurses' Health Study found that at least two hours of activity weekly was needed to derive CV benefits in women.
The AHA admits that it has yet to fully understand “how the inherent hormonal differences between men and women affect risk... This statement is a call for action to do the compelling research that is so important for all people with diabetes."
And along with that important research, continued health and dietary education and physical activity programs in our schools and communities seems equally important. It’s clear that the country may be finally starting to move in the right direction, but that we also have a long way to go to get obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome more generally, well under control.