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Survey reveals need for nutrition education among African Americans for disease prevention, management

November 06, 2015

Besides diabetes, the researchers noted another risk associated with these dietary habits: Among the African Americans surveyed, almost half - 44.6 percent of women and 49 percent of men - over age 20 had cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also could see from the data what else contributed to diabetes risk: For every one-year increase in age, there was a 7 percent greater likelihood that those studied would have diabetes, and for every centimeter increase in waist circumference came a 5 percent increase in the risk for having diabetes. The data also showed that as income increased, risk for diabetes decreased. For example, among the adults surveyed, if income rose from 100 percent of the federal poverty rate to 200 percent, the risk of having diabetes was cut by 14 percent.

Though dietary habits are just one likely contributor to a higher risk of disease, the researchers say nutrition is an important part of diabetes management that often goes unrecognized.

"Our health-care system in general isn't set up very well to provide nutrition counseling," Taylor said. "For the most part, individuals don't get access to a dietitian that is covered by their insurance. So the ability to get nutrition education out there and get people to change the habits they've had for so long becomes a barrier."

Taylor and Scott have partnered with Ohio State family medicine specialists to manage a community-based diabetes education program for African Americans living in central Ohio. The local and national projects inform each other, Taylor said.

"We looked at dietary intake habits locally as well. It gives us a comparative piece and has helped us identify what some of the major dietary habits are that can be addressed," he said. "And on a national scale, we wanted to identify some of the most important trends that we could then address through the local education program."

The program has helped the researchers identify other barriers to educating the African-American community about nutrition, which range from the lack of fresh foods in certain neighborhood markets to misconceptions - expressed in focus groups - about what it means to manage Type 2 diabetes.

"Some people think prevention of diabetes is getting their blood sugar checked. But that doesn't tell you how to prevent the disease from happening," Taylor said. "And because medications exist, people might think they don't have to eat better because they have a pill that takes care of blood sugar. So there is a big behavioral side to this."

Source: Ohio State University