Here’s a problem with death…besides it being death. The real cause of death is not always clear and obvious. Death certificates can be inaccurate. Case in point: a recently published study in PLoS ONE has revealed that diabetes may be killing around four times as many people as originally thought.
That means that obesity is probably killing many more people than realized. As the Obesity Society indicates, roughly 90% of diabetes cases are Type 2 diabetes, obesity is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes and most (almost 90%) people with Type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight.
For the study, Andrew Stokes from the Boston University School of Public Health and Samuel H. Preston from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data on patients who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and eventually died. The researchers used information from the surveys to determine which patients had diabetes and likely died from complications of diabetes. Then they searched the death certificates of these individuals to find the recorded cause of death. Based on the survey data, over 11.5% of the patients had died from diabetes complications. This was close to four times the percentage of patients who had diabetes complications mentioned on their death certificates (3.3–3.7%).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently lists diabetes as the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., with over 76,000 deaths in 2014. Multiply this number by four and suddenly diabetes becomes the third leading cause of death, leapfrogging lung disease, accidents, cerebrovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. With heart disease and cancer being one and two and obesity major causes of both, there’s a good chance that obesity is the top killer in the U.S. (Actually, this is a bad chance…it’s a good chance that this a bad chance…) As Maggie Fox reported for NBC News nearly four years ago, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health had found that nearly one in five deaths in America result from obesity. That’s a lot. But with the latest study, it could actually be more. A lot more.
The challenge with obesity and diabetes is that they aren’t obvious killers (like a lion with a chainsaw) but instead more devious, insidious and thus in many ways more dangerous. This has led to the obesity epidemic being a global catastrophe in slow motion. Is society really paying enough attention to this epidemic? Threatened cuts of funding to organizations that support obesity and diabetes research and control such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the CDC and the United States Department of Agriculture suggest no.
Think of being overweight and then developing diabetes as the first two parts of a confusing three-part movie series that has a really bad ending. They are the Star Wars: Phantom Menace and the Star Wars: Attack of Clones that set up The Revenge of the Sith…except worse, if you can imagine that. Complex and confusing storylines, a chain of events and the passage of time can make it difficult to realize that weight issues are what eventually led a person down a bad path that resulted in death.
Originally written by Bruce Y. Lee, published at Forbes
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