updated 10/15/2003 6:04:17 PM ET 2003-10-15T22:04:17

To the surprise of federal health officials, diabetes in the United States rose only slightly during the 1990s, despite a sharp increase in obesity.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that diabetes rates crept up from an estimated 8.2 percent of adults in 1988-94 to 8.6 percent in 1999-2000. That is an increase of less than 5 percent.

The CDC expected a larger increase because obesity — which can lead to diabetes — has been rising quickly, climbing 61 percent during the 1990s. As of 2000, 19.8 percent of U.S. adults were obese, according to the CDC.

But health officials warned that because diabetes is a slow-developing disease, diabetes rates could climb sharply over the next few years.

Also, lifestyle changes, including dieting and more exercise, may explain why some high-risk adults have not developed diabetes, the CDC said.

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