The message was clear: obesity and the resulting cases of diabetes were harming millions of Americans. Changes in lifestyle and eating habits had to be made.
And it appears many citizens actually listened.
Finally, after decades of what appeared to be an insurmountable number of reported cases, rates of diabetes in the United States have declined.
The number of new cases fell by about 20 percent from 2008 to 2014, according to research at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the first consistent drop since the disease started to explode in the country about 25 years ago.
The decline has been slow, so gradual over the years, in fact that the drop was not statistically meaningful until new data from 2014 was released. They showed there were 1.4 million new cases of diabetes in 2014, down from 1.7 million in 2008.
“It seems pretty clear that incidence rates have now actually started to drop,” Edward Gregg, a diabetes researcher for the CDC said to the New York Times. “Initially it was a little surprising because I had become so used to seeing increases everywhere we looked.”
Experts cannot yet confirm if the change can be attributed to the increased efforts to prevent diabetes or if the disease has peaked in the population. But the shift is consistent with recent progress reported in the overall health of Americans.
The amount of calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, has declined consistently for the first time since federal statistics began tracking the information more than 40 years ago. Children are also consuming on average about 9 percent less calories per day.
For the first time since the late 1990s, the amount of full-calorie soft drinks Americans are consuming has declined by about a quarter. All of this has likely contributed to the marked halt in the rise of obesity rates for adults and school-aged children.
Americans will need to continue with these trends, as experts say the number of people with diabetes is still more than double what it was in the early 1990s.
“It’s not yet time to have a parade,” Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center and Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said to the New York Times. But he noted, “It has finally entered into the consciousness of our population that the sedentary lifestyle is a real problem, that increased body weight is a real problem.”