Diabetes Hits Epidemic Proportions

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All across the country diabetes rates are soaring -- with more than 4,000 new cases diagnosed every day, according to a new report.

"There's no reason whatsoever at this point to think that we've reached the limit of this epidemic," Dr. William Russel of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital said. And the financial toll is huge.

A new study by the American Diabetes Association shows the cost of diabetes has swelled 32 percent since 2002, costing Americans $116 billion in medical expenses and $58 billion in lost productivity.

"I think the significance of these numbers is demonstrating the immense toll that diabetes is taking on this country," said Ann Albright of the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes claims nearly a quarter of a million lives a year. And type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of the disease, is linked to obesity. And Americans of all ages are getting heavier.

Evidence of the disease is devastating.

"Diabetes is currently the greatest cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations and a tremendous contributor to heart attacks and strokes," Dr. David Nathan, director of Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center, said.

But a new study finds that weight loss surgery may be one way to slow the epidemic. Stomach-banding surgery for weight loss cured nearly three-quarters of obese patients with type 2 diabetes, five times as many as could be cured by medications, dieting and lifestyle changes.

But medical experts warn surgery is not a cure all.

"Surgery can manage the problem, but the problem still needs to be managed," Dr. Arthur Frank of George Washington University said.

Meanwhile, the government is combating the problem by spending about $1 billion a year on diabetes research and $64 million on public health efforts.

And public schools are encouraged to promote better nutrition and exercise programs.

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