Houston, Jan 27 (Agencies): As the number of diabetics in the United States grows to nearly 26 million—10 percent increase of 2008, every third American adult could have diabetes by 2050, says a new study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday, expressing concern about the trend has cautioned that the disease is the seventh major cause of death in the country.

Nearly 26 million Americans of all ages are diabeticand 79 million people have what doctors call "prediabetes," according to 2011 estimates released by the CDC.

Nine million American adults were diagnosed with diabetes last year, the study said adding that its rates continue to soar among racial and ethnic minorities and if the current trend continues as many as one in three US adults could have diabetes by 2050.

“These distressing numbers show how important it is to prevent type 2 diabetes and to help those who have diabetes," said Ann Albright, director of the CDC's diabetes translation division.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and now costs USD 174 billion a year, including USD 116 billion in direct medical expenses, according to the CDC.

Prediabetes, which the CDC says affects 35 per cent of adults, is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

People with diabetes are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney failure, blindness and amputation of feet and legs.

The vast majority of cases of diabetes are type 2, which develops when the body's cells gradually lose sensitivity to insulin.

According to experts, weight gain is a very big reason for type 2 diabetes' continuing rise among Americans.    

"The percentage of the US adults who are overweight or obese has also risen dramatically, and there is no doubt that rising rates of obesity are linked to the rising rates of diabetes," said Christine Resta, an expert on diabetes in the division of endocrinology at Maimonides Medical Centre in New York city.

But changes in the way doctors diagnose the illness may have played a role in rising numbers, too, another expert said.

"One of the reasons the incidence of diabetes has been increasing in the last few years is because the American Diabetes Association (ADA) lowered the guidelines for diabetes diagnosis," explained Dr Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at The Brooklyn Hospital Centre in New York City.
In its report, the CDC agreed that the switch to hemoglobin A1c testing -- which measures levels of blood glucose (sugar) over a period of two to three months – could help account for at least some of the rising numbers.

But the CDC's National Diabetes Fact Sheet for 2011 also notes that about 27 per cent of Americans with diabetes, or about 7 million people, still do not know they have the disease.

Among adults, diabetes rates were about 16 per cent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 12.6 per cent for blacks, nearly 12 per cent for Hispanics, 8.4 per cent for Asian Americans, and just over 7 per cent for whites, the study said.

Half of Americans aged 65 and older have prediabetes and nearly 27 per cent have full-blown diabetes, the study noted.

Around 215,000 Americans younger than age 20 have diabetes, including type 1 diabetes, it said.