THE BRONX - New Yorkers are packing on the pounds and subsequently developing diabetes at a faster rate than the national average, according to a new study.

A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 173,500 New Yorkers became obese between 2002 and 2004, amounting to 100 million pounds gained in two years.

The study also found that 73,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed with diabetes during the same period.The figures show diabetes diagnoses jumped about 17 percent in the Big Apple, compared to the national average of just 6 percent during that time.

Health experts agree that people who live in low-income areas with poorer available food options and many fast-food restaurants are most at risk, but the elderly and wealthy are increasingly becoming at risk.

Doctors say part of the problem is soda. According to a different study, people often forget to count the "empty" calories soda adds to their diets. That amount can be as high as 300 calories daily, depending on consumption. The calories are called empty because soda has no nutritional value.Centers for Disease Control and PreventionSpringerLink: Journal of Urban Health