BALTIMORE — The number of US adults categorized as overweight or obese increased by millions over a decade as did the number with diabetes, according to a study that appeared online Jan. 24 in Obesity. Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, United Kingdom, and John Hopkins University in Baltimore concluded more effective preventive interventions are needed to reduce the prevalence of the cardiovascular risk factors. 

The study, which may be found here, extracted data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from the 2003-2004 period to the 2013-2014 period.

The estimated number of US adults categorized as having overweight/obesity/morbid obesity increased to 160.1 million (69 percent prevalence) in 2013-14 from 133.9 million (65 percent prevalence) in 2003-04. The number of US adults with diabetes increased to 30.2 million (13 percent) in 2013-14 from 21.2 million (10.3 percent) in 2003-04. Mean HDL-C, another cardiovascular risk factor, remained constant over the study in both men and women. Researchers observed a downward trend for median triglyceride levels, also a cardiovascular risk factor, in both men and women.

People with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and over were categorized as being overweight. The estimated mean BMI over the decade increased to 28.8 from 28.1 in men and to 29.5 from 28.3 in women. The number of US adults categorized as having obesity/morbid obesity (BMI of 30 or over) rose to 85.9 million (38 percent prevalence) from 65 million (32 percent prevalence) over the decade. The number with morbid obesity (BMI of 40 or over) increased to 17.4 million (7.6 percent) from 9.9 million (4.8 percent).

Researchers said the increase in diabetes may be due to the aging population and decreased mortality among people with diabetes because of improvements in identification and treatment of the disease.

“A nine-million-person increase in the number of patients with diabetes in the United States over the study period is alarming,” the researchers said. “What is more, there is no apparent attenuation in the trend despite the relatively simple identification of high-risk features predisposing individuals to the onset of the disease. Practical approaches to its prevention, such as weight loss, exercising and smoking cessation, are clearly failing.”

The prevalence of diabetes in 2013-14 was highest among Hispanic men (about 45 percent) and Hispanic women (35 percent). The prevalence was lowest in non-Hispanic white men (20 percent) and non-Hispanic white women (25 percent).