New estimate predicts rapid growth in obesity, type 2 diabetes

Unless serious efforts are made to help people live healthier lifestyles, the number of obese individuals in the U.S. is set to explode in the coming years, according to a new study from researchers at Columbia University and Oxford University. The findings could have important implications for type 2 diabetes rates.

The researchers reported in the journal The Lancet that unless public policy shifts toward a more preventative approach, 65 million people may become obese by 2030. This is in addition to the more than 116 million people who are currently severely overweight. This could drive the national obesity rate close to 50 percent and result in 7.8 million new cases of type 2 diabetes.

There is a significant economic burden that is expected to accompany this rise in obesity. The paper states that the treatment of weight-related health problems could end up costing between $48 and $66 billion per year. This does not take into account productivity losses that often attend a sick population.

"Many chronic and acute health disorders associated with excess bodyweight burden society - not only by negatively affecting the health-related quality of life but also by incurring significant costs," said Dr. Claire Wang, MD, the leader of the study.

However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Wang added that a population-wide reduction in BMI of just 1 percent could prevent 2.4 million new cases of type 2 diabetes.

The findings suggest that swift action is needed to head of a worsening off the situation. Type 2 diabetes already is one of the most expensive conditions to treat. A further increase in the number of people who have the condition could have catastrophic economic consequences.