Things That Matter

Food, Culture, And Physical Activities Are All Factors In Latinos Being Most Likely To Develop Diabetes

There’s no denying that Mexican food revolves around masa. We use the corn dough for tortillas, tamales, gorditas, tostadas, chips, tacos, we can go on and on. The masa isn’t low-calorie food. It’s a high-carb, and we eat a lot of it. Have you ever had just one tortilla for one meal? We didn’t think so. We also eat a lot of beans, and beans — while good protein — are sometimes made it lard, straight up fat. We say all of this because Mexican food could become one of the most unhealthy habits if not consumed responsibly. A new study shows how much Latinos are affected by it. 

Latinos are poised to get type 2 diabetes more than any other group. 

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A couple of studies point to the same result: the chances of Latinos getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are higher than any other group. The studies show that the fault falls on our genetics and also our lifestyle. 

“There are some genetic factors,” Dr. Rayesh K. Garg said in an interview with the Miami-Herald, “but there are also many lifestyle factors. Diet, high fat, high-carb, plays a big role.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Latinos are at higher risk because of: 

  • Genetics: Hispanics/Latinos have genes that increase their chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is very complicated, though, and the connection isn’t completely clear.
  • Food: In some Hispanic/Latino cultures, meals can be high in fat and calories. Also, family celebrations may involve social pressure to overeat, and turning down food could be seen as impolite.
  • Weight/activity: Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of obesity and tend to be less physically active than non-Hispanic whites. And some see overweight as a sign of health instead of as a health problem.

Studies also show that type 2 diabetes is also affecting a younger generation of Latinos. 

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The incidence of obesity and sedentary lifestyle is taking its toll,” Dr. Garg said. Which means younger people are being less active. They are consuming and not doing any physical activity. 

The CDC study states that people of color, including Black, Latino, and Asian, are at risk of getting diabetes, but for Latinos, it’s still much higher. The report shows that Latinos will likely have type 2 diabetes at 17 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites, which is at 8 percent. 

Another study shows that 71 percent of Latinas and 80 percent of Latinos have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) conducted a study among 16,000 adult Latinos in four different communities

“The HCHS/SOL study found a comparable or higher burden of cardiovascular disease risk among all major U.S. Hispanic and Latino groups, compared to non-Hispanic whites living in the United States. Additionally, study data showed considerable differences among Hispanics of various backgrounds. It has been shown that 71 percent of Hispanic and Latina women and 80 percent of Hispanic and Latino men have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

Here’s what Latinos can do to stay in better health and prevent diabetes.

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It’s pretty common sense that we should eat everything in moderation, and that we should do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Dr. Garg also suggests phasing out of carbs. He said it sounds like a radical change, but it doesn’t have to be. 

“You don’t have to completely abandon your lifestyle,” Garg says. “You can live a normal life if you have diabetes or prediabetes. But you do have to make changes.”

The CDC also suggests that Latinos have to change their way of thinking when it comes to doctors, health, and nutrition. 

“You may put the needs of your family before your own health needs. You may want to use natural or traditional medicines instead of standard diabetes treatments. You may also have heard that taking insulin will cause diabetes complications (this isn’t true).” 

 Latinos love family gatherings, and those moments are usually shared with meals. The CDC suggests that by incorporating change within the family, a healthy lifestyle could benefit everyone. 

“When a family member has to change what he or she eats to manage diabetes, it affects the whole family. This can be an opportunity for everyone to make healthy changes, which is especially important for kids. Hispanic/Latino children and teens are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, too, and learning healthy eating habits early gives them the best chance to prevent it.”

READ: These Substitutes Make Our Favorite Latino Foods Healthy, Delicious, Satisfying, And Good For You