A UCLA study says "a preponderance of soda and junk-food marketing' is creating a diabetes epidemic in California. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Health advocates say”a preponderance of soda and junk-food marketing is creating a diabetes epidemic in California. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Almost half of California adults have prediabetes — a precursor of type 2 diabetes — or undiagnosed diabetes, according to a UCLA study released Thursday.

The study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that 33 percent of young adults aged 18 to 39 have prediabetes, a finding that researchers said was particularly of note since diabetes is generally more common among older adults.

“This is the clearest indication to date that the diabetes epidemic is out of control and getting worse,” said Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which commissioned the study. “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.

“If there is any hope to keep health insurance costs from skyrocketing, health care providers from being overwhelmed and millions of Californians from suffering needlessly from amputations, blindness and kidney failure, the state of California must launch a major campaign to turn around the epidemic of type 2 diabetes.”

The study was based on an analysis of hemoglobin A1c and plasma glucose findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, along with health survey data from more than 40,000 respondents.

It found that 13 million adults in California, or 46 percent, are believed to have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. Another 2.5 million adults, or 9 percent, have already been diagnosed with diabetes.

Researchers noted that many people do not get tested for prediabetes because the test often isn’t covered by insurance.

“There are significant barriers not only to people knowing their status, but getting effective help,” according to Dr. Susan Babey, co-director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research’s Chronic Disease Program. “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.”

According to researchers, up to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years, and as many as 70 percent will develop the disease in their lifetime.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.