One in three Americans born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes, researchers have estimated.
Many diabetics have to take insulin
They say the risk of developing diabetes is almost as high as the risk of developing heart disease.
If untreated, diabetes can lead to kidney failure, gangrene and amputation, blindness, or stroke.
UK experts say diabetes is on the increase, largely due to a rise in obesity, which is a major risk factor for the disease.
It is estimated that there are over a million people in the UK with Type 2 diabetes and that 80% of them are obese.
Analysts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among US adults had increased by 40% in ten years, from 4.9% in 1990 to 6.9% in 1999.
It is estimated that the number will increase by 165% between 2000 and 2050, with most of the increase occurring in older adults and ethnic minorities.
Researchers analysed data from the National Health Interview Survey (1984 - 2000) to estimate lifetime risk of developing diabetes linked to age, sex and ethnicity for people born in 2000.
They then used US Census data and information from a previous study of diabetes to estimate how diabetes would affect individuals - including age at diagnosis, how long they would have diabetes for and how many years of life could be lost because of the disease.
The researchers found that the lifetime risk of developing diabetes for individuals born in 2000 was 32.8% for men and 38.5% for women.
Women had a higher lifetime risk for diabetes at all ages. Hispanics also had a higher lifetime risk.
It was estimated that a man diagnosed with diabetes when they were 40 would lose 11.6 years of life, and a woman 14.3 years.
Writing in JAMA, the researchers, led by Dr Venkat Narayan, said: "The lifetime risk of diabetes is considerably higher than the widely publicized one in eight risk for breast cancer among U.S. women.
"At age 40 years, the residual lifetime risk of diabetes is roughly one in three for men and women, and is nearly as high as that for coronary heart disease (one in two for men and one in three for women."
They add evidence has shown lifestyle changes such as modest weight loss can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, and say more health advice should be given out by doctors.
Penny Williams, from Diabetes UK, said: "These new statistics from America are very worrying.
"We know that diabetes is on the increase in the UK and that certain factors place people at a higher risk of diabetes. These include your age, family history, ethnic background and weight.
"Recent figures reveal that nearly half of men and a third of women in England are overweight with about one in five of these being obese. If people are at risk of diabetes they can help prevent or delay the condition by taking regular exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet and losing weight."