Lifestyle changes could reduce the number of black adults with type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on January 1, 2018

It is already known that black adults are more likely to develop diabetes than white adults but now new research suggests this is mainly due to obesity and therefore lifestyle changes can reduce the risk.

Researchers from the Northwester University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago in the United States found that as well as obesity the other risk factors for black people include depression and whether or not they have a job.


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Poverty, neighbourhood segregation and education may also play a part, according to the study of 4,251 black and white men and women aged 18 to 30 years old. None of them had diabetes to start with but after an average follow-up of more than 24 years, some 504 developed diabetes.

During the study, 189 white people and 315 black people developed diabetes. This translates into 86 cases of diabetes for every 1,000 white people, compared with 152 cases for every 1,000 black people.

Compared to white women, black women were almost three times more likely to develop diabetes, the researchers also found and black men had 67% higher odds of becoming diabetic than white men.

However, there was no longer a meaningful difference in diabetes risk between black and white people once researchers accounted for a variety of factors that can contribute to this disease including obesity.

‘Our work suggests that if we can eliminate these differences in traditional risk factors between blacks and whites then we can reduce the race disparities in the development of diabetes,’ said lead study author Michael Bancks.

But he said it would take some work. ‘To eliminate the higher rate of diabetes, everybody needs to have access to healthy foods, safe spaces for physical activity and equal economic opportunity to have enough money to afford these things and live in communities that offer this,’ he told Reuters.

‘Prior research by our team has shown that black adults live in neighbourhoods that have higher rates of poverty, fewer grocery stores and fewer safe places for physical activity. These neighbourhood factors contribute directly to the health behaviours such as physical activity and diet that can lead to obesity and diabetes,’ he explained.

However, the overwhelming factor was obesity, according to the study report which may be easier to deal with if people can be persuaded to adopt a healthier diet and introduce exercise regimes into their lives.

According to Dr. Daniel Lackland, a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, it is important for black people to recognise the disease risk disparities and excess burden for African Americans but also that these risks can successfully be reduced by making lifestyle changes.

He explained that they could include making sure they are aware of their blood pressure and blood glucose levels, that they take medication as prescribed, giving up smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet.

‘These are interventions individuals could implement regardless of income level. For example, having blood pressure measured and knowing numbers, walking in safe areas such as shopping malls and eating a healthy diet,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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