updated 10/7/2004 3:26:06 PM ET 2004-10-07T19:26:06

Chronic kidney failure more than doubled in the United States in the 1990s — another sign of the toll being taken by America’s obesity epidemic, the government reported Thursday.

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Between 1990 and 2001, cases of chronic kidney failure rose from 697 to 1,424 per 1 million population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 104 percent increase was even bigger than researchers expected, said Dr. Wayne Giles, a CDC associate director.

“Obesity plays an important role,” Giles said. Obesity can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure, and both of those conditions can cause chronic kidney failure.

Diabetes-related chronic kidney failure increased 194 percent, from 171 to 503 cases per million, and hypertension-related cases doubled from 166 to 331 cases per million during the same period, the CDC said.

Aging population also a factor
Other possible reasons cited by the agency for the rise include an aging population, and medical advances such as dialysis that are keeping more people with the condition alive longer.

Chronic kidney failure is the ninth-leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 39,500 deaths per year, according to the CDC.

To reduce chronic kidney disease, the CDC emphasized the same tips it suggests to reduce obesity — a healthy diet and regular exercise. Controlling diabetes and high blood pressure also is important — only 37 percent of diabetics have their glucose under control, and only a third of U.S. hypertension patients have restored their blood pressures back to normal levels, Giles said.

A CDC survey in the early 1990s found that 56 percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese. That rose to 65 percent in a similar survey done from 1999 to 2002.

Obesity is a life-or-death struggle in America: It was the underlying cause of 400,000 deaths in 2000, a 33 percent jump from 1990. If current trends persist, it will be the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death, the CDC said earlier this year.

Washington, D.C., Louisiana and Mississippi had the highest rates of chronic kidney failure.

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