A lot of people think the obesity epidemic is about how people look. That is wrong. The startling number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes tell us that the epidemic has real and severe health consequences.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually strikes in childhood. It is a genetic disease that has nothing to do with body weight. It accounts for about 5 percent of diabetes cases and the incidence rate has not changed.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by obesity and genetic susceptibility. Our genes haven't changed but the numbers of Americans known to have Type 2 diabetes doubled over the last decade to more than 14 million.
The government estimates more than 5 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and they don't know it. That group is the walking time bomb. The extra glucose in their veins breaks down their circulatory system which in turn causes heart attacks, blindness, loss of arms and legs, kidney damage and stroke. If diabetes is treated properly all that can be mostly avoided.
The saddest people to see in my visits to diabetes clinics are the overweight teenagers with Type 2 diabetes. Controlling their sugar for decades may not be possible and their lives could be shortened by a decade or more.
Currently, death certificates in America list diabetes as a cause of death for about 70,000 a year. But because it causes all those side effects, the true number of diabetes-caused deaths could be closer to half a million. We are truly eating ourselves to death.