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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. 

Credit: @HHS_HealthReg2 / Twitter

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. 

Credit: @ElComunicadorDC / Twitter

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.

Credit: @DrDiazRios / Twitter

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

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New CDC Report Tracks Activity Levels Of Adults And Puerto Ricans Are The Second Most Sedentary


New CDC Report Tracks Activity Levels Of Adults And Puerto Ricans Are The Second Most Sedentary

Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

A new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report reveals that nearly half of Puerto Ricans get no exercise beyond walking to and from their cars and around the house. That’s more than three times the national average. The study concluded that the most significant factor in differences in the prevalence of physical inactivity was when controlled by race or ethnicity. Latinos were found to be the most sedentary (31.7 percent), marginally followed by non-Hispanic blacks (30.3 percent) with non-Hispanic whites having the lowest rate of physical inactivity at 23.4 percent. Respondents were classified as physically inactive if they responded “no” to the following question: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?” Every single state or territory found that more than 15 percent of adults were physically inactive.

The lack of physical activity leads to health problems that cost Americans $117 billion annually. The CDC is cautioning Americans, especially Americans of color, that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to 1 in 10 early deaths.

It’s unclear why Latinos and Black Americans are so singularly sedentary.


Some think that the cause is regional in nature. Americans concentrated in cities and urban areas are more likely to get exercise simply because of the proximity to exercise facilities and pedestrian commutes. The map above illustrates the inactivity levels of each state and territory for every American of every race and ethnicity. The South is significantly more sedentary than the North and the West regardless of one’s race or ethnicity. 

That said, when you look at the same states and factor for Latinidad, the statistics significantly worsen.


When race or ethnicity isn’t a factor, Oregon appears as one of the most active states in the country. When you look only at the Latinos living in Oregon, it becomes one of the worst in the country. That means that non-Hispanic white people either have more access to those gym memberships or faraway hiking trails or incorporate it into their culture more than Latinos living in the same area. 

It’s easy to assume the socio-economic factors at play here — that minorities are so disenfranchised that they simply don’t have the time or energy to exercise after their long or labor-intensive workdays. Latinas have the highest lifetime risk for diabetes across all demographic groups, according to non-profit Salud America! A small research study at the Fair Haven Community Health Center found that fear of injury and lack of energy were the most common barriers for Latina women. This is when the cultural trope of Latina moms being afraid for you to go too close to the freezer or you’ll catch pneumonia becomes pathological.

According to the CDC, Hispanic adults are 50 percent more likely to suffer from diabetes and liver diseases than non-Hispanic white adults. Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle have been linked to diabetes meaning that the map of inactivity is bad news for Hispanics. A more sedentary lifestyle has a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes and worsening the effects if someone already has the disease.

Meanwhile, when you look at just non-Hispanic white Americans, the map brightens up just as significantly.


“Too many adults are inactive, and they may not know how much it affects their health,” said Ruth Petersen, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “Being physically active helps you sleep better, feel better and reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers,” she added in a media statement. The CDC has found that engaging in such physical activity could prevent 1 in 8 cases of breast cancer and colorectal cancer. 

The CDC is working to get more Americans to engage in physical activity for 25 minutes a day by 2027. In order to do this, the Surgeon General has called on cities to consider walkability as part of their city planning process. “Individuals and families are encouraged to build physical activity into their day by going for a brisk walk or a hike, walking the dog, choosing the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, parking further away in the parking lot, walking or cycling to run errands, and getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way,” the federal agency said in a statement.

The study’s data came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an ongoing state-based, telephone interview survey conducted by CDC and state health departments. The maps used combined data from 2015 through 2018.

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

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