Prediabetes is on the rise in people at a healthy weight, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The condition, a precursor to diabetes, is characterized by blood sugar levels that are elevated but not high enough to be considered full-blown disease. Still, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and other health problems.
The study, in the Annals of Family Medicine, found that among healthy-weight adults ages 20 and older, prediabetes prevalence increased overall from 10 percent in 1988-94 to 19 percent in 2011-12. Among those 45 and older, it increased from 22 to 33 percent.
Though abdominal obesity—which is associated with both diabetes and prediabetes—also increased slightly over this same period, this did not explain the increase in prediabetes, the researchers determined. Rather, they speculated that it could partly be due to increased sedentary lifestyle, which negatively affects insulin sensitivity.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends blood sugar screening only for overweight or obese people ages 40 to 70. These new findings mean that many people with prediabetes are being missed.