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Diabetes Cases Falling For First Time In 25 Years Despite Rise In Obesity

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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The number of new diabetes cases has fallen dramatically for the first time in decades despite rising rates of obesity.

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the number of new diabetes cases fell by 20 percent from 2008 to 2014, with the total number coming to 1.4 million. There are 22 million people with diabetes in the U.S.

According to The New York Times this is the “first sustained decline since the disease started to explode in this country about 25 years ago.” Edward Gregg, a diabetes expert at the CDC says the results are “surprising after so many years of seeing increases.”

The sharp drop in new diabetes cases is even more surprising given rising rates of obesity. The number of obese Americans has risen to its highest point in a decade despite a wave of public health campaigns to get people to change the way they eat and drink.

According to the CDC survey data, the obesity rate rose from 35 percent to 38 percent from 2011-12 to 2013-14. Although the increase is statistically insignificant, earlier CDC figures show obesity increased markedly from 2003-04, when 32 percent of people were obese.

Childhood obesity has remained steady at the 17 percent mark over the last 10 years despite the best efforts of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The stubbornly high obesity rate is puzzling health campaigners who were expecting obesity to fall as consumption of sugar and soda declined.

Researchers are finding it increasingly difficult to pinpoint the reason so many Americans are overweight. A study by David Just and Brian Wansink at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab looked at national data from 2007-8 and found there is no correlation between the amount of junk food people eat and their body mass index (BMI).

“Simply put, just because those things can lead you to get fat doesn’t mean that’s what is making us fat,” says Just.

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