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US diabetes rates slipping among whites but climbing among blacks: Why?

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Diabetes rate has skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent decades but a new study reveals that the rate of diabetes diagnosis among American adults has leveled off between 2008 and 2012.

In the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Sept. 24, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data of over 600,000 adults between 20 to 79 years for the years 1980 to 2012.

The researchers found that the number of individuals with diabetes in the U.S. has more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, which is largely attributed to the obesity epidemic that plays a crucial role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes rates, however, appear to have leveled off between 2008 and 2012 giving hope that one of the most worrisome epidemics in the U.S. has slowed down.

Unfortunately, the desirable decline in diabetes rates was not reflected in all population groups as the incidence of diabetes continues to increase among blacks, the Hispanics, the aging population and those who are poorly educated.

"Incidence rates among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic adults continued to increase at rates significantly greater than for non-Hispanic white adults," study author Ann Albright, from CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues wrote. "In addition, the rate of increase in prevalence was higher for adults who had a high school education or less compared with those who had more than a high school education."

The prevalence of obesity among blacks and Hispanics is to be blamed why diabetes does not seem to slow down for these groups. Figures from the CDC show that 47.8 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 42.5 percent of Hispanics are obese, making them more vulnerable to developing the metabolic disease.

Programs such as the National Diabetes Prevention Program aimed at cutting a person's risks of developing type 2 diabetes may have also helped other population groups. Under the program, participants are taught to eat healthy and engage in physical activities to reduce their chances of developing diabetes. Participants are also aided by lifestyle coaches to boost their chances for success. Unfortunately, this did not apparently make the cut among blacks, the Hispanics and those who are poorly educated.

"You have to begin to look at things like poverty level, access to these kinds of diabetes prevention services, making sure that these services are culturally appropriate and easy for people to access," Albright said.

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