“This also requires changes at the political level,” said Khan, citing examples such as soda taxes and efforts to make fruits and vegetables more accessible in low-income areas.
The findings, published February 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, are based on two large, ongoing studies tracking Americans’ health and lifestyle habits.
One tracked middle-aged and older adults for a decade and found that nearly 12% developed type 2 diabetes during that time. The chances were much higher in obese participants: 20% were diagnosed with diabetes and 7% of the other adults.
The other data source was the federal government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which regularly collects health information from a nationally representative sample of Americans.
Khan’s team put the two studies together and calculated the number of new cases of diabetes attributable to obesity.
By the end of the study period (2013-2016), an estimated 53% of diabetes diagnoses could be related to obesity.
However, the effects were not uniform. Obesity had the largest impact on white women ‘s risk of diabetes and a lesser impact on black and Hispanic Americans.
That doesn’t mean obesity wasn’t important to them, Khan pointed out. However, other factors – from health care difficulties to everyday stress to structural racism – could also be critical to minority type 2 diabetes risk.
The good news is that the studies left “no question” that lifestyle interventions can lower the risk of diabetes, said Katherine O’Neal, associate professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy.
And for people who are overweight, there is already a modest amount of weight loss benefits, said O’Neal, who is also a spokesman for the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists.
The key is sustainability. “The most important factor is that these changes must be a lifestyle, not a temporary change,” said O’Neal.
Support not only from health care providers but also from family members and friends goes a long way, she added.
For people on low incomes, O’Neal said, community health clinics and churches can be resources for information and motivation.
Exercise, she stressed, doesn’t have to involve a gym: running in place, using canned food as weights, and parking far from the grocery store entrance – walking there and then doing a few laps – are easy ways to get activity Integrate day.