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New study finds ‘food insecure’ Latinos having harder time managing their diabetes

LatinaLista — In these times of rising food prices, stagnant incomes and continuing layoffs, it’s not surprising to know that 24 percent of Latinos were classified as “food insecure” in 2013. Combine that with the following dismal facts about diabetes in the Latino population:

  • Prevalence of total diabetes (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) among all Hispanic/Latino groups was roughly 16.9 percent for both men and women, compared to 10.2 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
  • Prevalence of diabetes rises dramatically with age, reaching more than 50 percent for Hispanic/Latino women (overall) by the time they reached age 70 and 44.3 percent for men aged 70-74.
  • Among Hispanic adults:
    8.5% for Central and South Americans
    9.3% for Cubans
    13.9% for Mexican Americans
    14.8% for Puerto Ricans

And it’s no wonder that a new study presented at the American Diabetes Association‘s annual conference has found that people who live day to day not knowing if they will eat are far likelier to be unable to manage their diabetes.

It stands to reason, if there’s no money for food, there’s no money for HEALTHY food, a.k.a. vegetables and fruits.

“We found that those patients who were food insecure had higher A1C levels and ate fewer vegetables,” said Britt Rotberg, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, BC-ADM, Assistant Director of the Emory Diabetes Education Training Academy, Emory Latino Diabetes Education Program at the Emory School of Medicine. “These findings underscore the importance of individualized diabetes management, and the need to take into account not only patients’ socioeconomic status, but food availability, when discussing diabetes self-management. We should find new ways to help our food insecure patients obtain nutritionally adequate foods.”

And it’s not only diabetes that is affected by a diet poor in vegetables and fruits but also the health of newborns.

Latinas are three times more likely to deliver a child with birth defects. One reason is because of all women, Latinas are the least group to eat foods with folic acid, an essential mineral for growing new cells — and birthing healthy infants.

Combatting this food deficiency is easy to address:

  • Create community gardens
  • Develop partnerships between food banks and local Farmers Markets
  • Develop special programs with food banks and restaurants whereby restaurants give their leftovers to food banks
  • Encourage more Latinos to take advantage of the SNAP program, in which they can use their cards to buy vegetables and fruits at Farmers Markets, buy seeds to plant their own home gardens or buy frozen, canned or dried fruits.

The bottom line is that by not eating nutritious food, people condemn themselves to long-term consequences that prove costly to their health, their quality of life and their wallet.

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