Obesity, Diabetes Rise Fast In NYC
Some 173,500 adult New Yorkers became obese and more than 73,000 were newly diagnosed with diabetes from 2002 to 2004, according to a new study from Health Department. The authors, writing in the April 2008 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, estimated that the citywide weight gain totaled more than 10 million pounds in just two years. The city's rates of obesity and diagnosed diabetes both increased by 17% during the two-year study period. By contrast, the rest of the nation experienced just a 6% increase in obesity prevalence and no increase in diabetes diagnoses.
"Obesity and with it diabetes are the only widespread major health conditions that are getting worse in New York City", said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city's health commissioner. "To tackle this problem and help prevent the devastating effects of these conditions, New Yorkers must to take in fewer calories, and to help them do that we must change our environment. Consumers must have calorie information readily available when they are ordering food at chain restaurants, and we must continue to increase access to fruits and vegetables in the neighborhoods where healthy foods are not readily accessible."
In New York City, obesity increased among both whites (20%) and Hispanics (14%), whereas the nation experienced a significant increase only among whites (7%). In addition, the obesity rate among older New Yorkers rose by 28%, while the estimated national rate held steady. Among foreign-born New Yorkers, the obesity rate shot up by 33%, going from 16.8% in 2002 to 22.4% in 2004.These subgroups are significant because whites and Hispanics comprise nearly two thirds of the city's population, and the number of aging Hispanic and foreign-born New Yorkers is increasing rapidly.
The new diabetes findings are equally worrisome. The local increase in diagnoses was significant among men, older adults, whites, and those living in higher-income neighborhoods. Both foreign-born and US-born adults experienced increases in New York City (26% and 15% respectively). The highest rates occurred among black and Hispanic adults, and those who live in low-income neighborhoods. New York City's high overall diabetes rate largely reflects the high rates of disease among poorer residents and racial minorities, but the new findings show that diabetes is affecting wealthier segments of the population as well.
Soda Consumption: Adding Empty Calories
One of the major contributors to excessive weight gain and subsequent diabetes is the consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks. In another new study, appearing in the Journal of Urban Health, Health Department researchers examined the demographic factors associated with heavy consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas among New York City adults. Overall, the survey found that 27% of New York City adults consume one or more sugar-sweetened sodas each day; these consumers report drinking an average of nearly two sodas each day, accounting for almost 300 calories each day from soda alone. Frequent soda consumption was most common in the demographic groups at highest risk of obesity, including men, US-born blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican/Mexican-Americans, those with less than a college education, and those from low-income households. Women who were frequent soda drinkers were significantly heavier than those who drank soda infrequently, even after taking into account their age and level of physical activity.
"When people count calories, they too often forget to include drinks, which can account for a large number of extra calories," said Cathy Nonas, the Health Department's Director of Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs. "We think of the calories in soda as 'empty' ones, because they provide no nutritional benefits. In the middle of this epidemic of obesity, people should choose water and zero-calorie drinks, not sugar-sweetened soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks."