More Than Half of Us Have Diabetes or a Precursor, Study Says

More Than Half of Us Have Diabetes or a Precursor, Study Says
File photo by Channone Arif/Flickr

You like soda, beer, cronuts and wine. We do too.

But it's becoming a problem. And not just the kind you need to talk to your 12-step group about.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research revealed a study this week that concludes more than half of Californians have prediabetes or diabetes. Many of us don't even know it.

In a statement, UCLA defines prediabetes as "a precursor to life-threatening Type 2 diabetes." One in three young adults (ages 18 to 39) in the state has prediabetes, the university said.

About half of us (46) percent have that or undiagnosed diabetes, and another 9 percent has been officially notified they have the disease, UCLA says.

"This is the clearest indication to date that the diabetes epidemic is out of control and getting worse," said the UCLA center's executive director, Harold Goldstein. "With limited availability of healthy food in low-income communities, a preponderance of soda and junk-food marketing, and urban neighborhoods lacking safe places to play, we have created a world where diabetes is the natural consequence."

Diabetes is no fun.

If you're lucky, it will lead to constant blood-sugar testing and careful monitoring of an often sugar-free life. If you're not so lucky, you could lose limbs or even die.

Experts seem to agree that we eat too much sugar these days. Some point to the rise of corn syrup in processed food as a factor in the national epidemic.

This week state legislators proposed a soda tax, or "health impact fee," that could raise "$2.3 billion a year to prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, heart and dental disease," a statement from a trio of lawmakers says.

"Science overwhelmingly demonstrates that the overconsumption of soda and other sugar-laden beverages has led to an epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and obesity throughout our country and here in California,” said one of them, Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica. "Now is the time to take action and begin to reverse the negative and preventable health impacts caused by these products.”

The state's prediabetes rates were higher in Pacific Islanders (43 percent), African-Americans (38 percent), American Indians (38 percent), multiracial Californians (37 percent), Latinos (36 percent) and Asian-Americans (31 percent) when compared with regular old white folks (29 percent), the UCLA study found.

But "no demographic or region appeared to be free of the diabetes and prediabetes epidemics," the university said.

The researchers said prevention was possible and urged insurers that don't already to start covering prediabetes tests.

"A simple blood test for diabetes should be covered by all insurers, as should the resources and programs that can make a real difference in stopping the progression of this terrible disease," said Susan Babey, lead author of the study and co-director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research’s Chronic Disease Program.

More Than Half of Us Have Diabetes or a Precursor, Study Says

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