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Obesity leads to diabetes risk for black people says report

RISK FACTORS: Black people more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes but new study says this can change

EVEN THOUGH black adults are more likely to develop diabetes than white adults, the increased risk is largely due to obesity and other risk factors that may be possible to change, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers followed 4,251 black and white men and women starting when they were 18 to 30 years old; none of them had diabetes to start with. After an average follow-up of more than 24 years, 504 of the participants developed diabetes.

Compared to white women, black women were almost three times more likely to develop diabetes, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Black men, meanwhile, had 67 percent 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, neighbourhood segregation and poverty levels, depression, education and employment.

Lead study author Michael Bancks, a researcher at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said: “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.”

However Bancks acknowledged this isn’t an easy fix.

“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 said.

“Prior research by our team has shown that black adults live in neighborhoods that have higher rates of poverty, fewer grocery stores and (fewer) safe places for physical activity,” Bancks added. “These neighborhood factors contribute directly to the health behaviors such as physical activity and diet that can lead to obesity and diabetes.”

At the start of the study, participants were about 25 years old on average, and white people were more likely to be married, employed full-time and have at least some college education.

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.

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