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The Diabetes Opportunity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update this week announcing that the number of Americans with diabetes increased to 24 million, up more than 3 million in approximately two years. That's nearly 8% of the entire U.S. population.

diabetespins.jpegFrom the report: Among adults, diabetes increased in both men and women and in all age groups, but still disproportionately affects the elderly. Almost 25% of the population 60 years and older had diabetes in 2007. And, as in previous years, disparities exist among ethnic groups and minority populations including Native Americans, blacks and Hispanics. After adjusting for population age differences between the groups, the rate of diagnosed diabetes was highest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives (16.5%). This was followed by blacks (11.8%) and Hispanics (10.4), which includes rates for Puerto Ricans (12.6), Mexican Americans (11.9%), and Cubans (8.2%). By comparison, the rate for Asian Americans was 7.5% with whites at 6.6%.

The CDC report spins the numbers into something good, noting that more people are becoming aware of the condition, and taking steps to get tested and treated. This explains some of the steep increase, but not all of it. The disease is still on the upswing on its own.

SN Whole Health devoted a cover story to the diabetes epidemic in 2006 (then, the number of diabetes sufferers was roughly 15 million). At that time, we spoke with a number of retailers who were implementing various programs and services to help these special-needs shoppers navigate the store in a more healthful way.

For a condition so closely tied to food and lifestyle, it's imperative that supermarkets get more deeply involved in education, testing and disease management. There are plenty of fantastic programs out there in stores right now, and lots of caring professionals leading the way. But the condition is continuing to worsen, and so it's time to reassess and update diabetes-related education materials, product selection and outreach programs.

"I think we have a tremendous opportunity to be able to influence peoples' lifestyle choices through diet," said one of the retailers quoted in our 2006 story. To be sure, it's an opportunity we can't miss.