Reducing the prevalence of obesity could prevent up to half of new cases of type 2 diabetes in the US, according to a new study by Northwestern Medicine.
Prevention is even more urgent as the obesity epidemic has collided with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the study’s authors. People with obesity have more severe COVID-19 infections and could have more serious health consequences in the years to come.
“This is the first study to calculate trends in the percentage of new cases of diabetes due to obesity over time,” said senior author Dr. Sadiya Khan, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a cardiologist for Northwestern Medicine. “Obesity is a major contributor to diabetes. We recently showed that the years of life lost to diabetes are increasing. “
The study looked at each race / gender group separately to reveal current and future trends in diabetes if the obesity epidemic continues unchecked.
- Between a third and a half of all new cases of diabetes are due to obesity in the United States
- This explains a large part of the increase in diabetes over the past two decades and
- Significant differences exist among the racial sex groups with the greatest exposure to obesity in non-Hispanic women
The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Our study highlights the significant impact that obesity reduction could have on the prevention of type 2 diabetes in the US,” said lead study author Dr. Natalie Cameron, an internal medicine doctor based at Northwestern University’s McGaw Medical Center. “Reducing obesity must be a priority. Public health efforts that support healthy lifestyles, such as improving access to nutritious foods, promoting physical activity and developing community programs to prevent obesity, could significantly reduce new cases of type 2 diabetes. ”
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting more than 31 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of deaths from type 2 diabetes, In people under 65, the number increases along with serious complications of the disease, including amputation and hospitalization. Adults with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as people without diabetes.
The researchers used information from the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and four pooled cycles (2001-2016) of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). MESA is an ongoing longitudinal study of 45 to 84 year olds who had no cardiovascular disease when they were recruited. The MESA data included in this study was collected during five visits from 2000 to 2017 to six centers in the United States. NHANES is a cross-sectional study of the American population conducted every two years using patient questionnaires and research data.
For this analysis, the authors limited the data to participants aged 45 to 79 years. They only included those who were not Hispanic White, Hispanic Black, or Mexican-American and who had neither Type 1 nor Type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. The researchers calculated both the prevalence of obesity and the excessive risk of type 2 diabetes associated with obesity.
“Our study confirms that obesity is more common in non-Hispanic black adults and Mexican-American adults than in non-Hispanic white adults,” said Cameron. “We suspect that these differences may indicate important social determinants of health that are contributing to new cases of type 2 diabetes in addition to obesity.”
Co-authors are Lucia Petito, Megan McCabe, Norrina Allen, Dr. Matthew O’Brien and Mercedes Carnethon.
This research was supported by grant KL2TR001424 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences at the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.