According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes. Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults had type 1 diabetes, the other 29.05 million (95.9%) having type 2. Although there are multiple risk factors for type 2 diabetes, the single best predictor of type 2 diabetes is obesity.
A risk factor for obesity? Poverty. A 2011 ADA study found American counties with poverty rates over 35% often have obesity rates 145% greater than that of wealthier counties. The poorest state in the country, Mississippi, is also the fattest.
The relationship between obesity and food insecurity seems paradoxical, though, and recent research on that relationship provides mixed results. Probably because obesity, among the food insecure and secure alike, is largely caused by sedentary lifestyle and larger portions; however, the food insecure face unique challenges when it comes to adopting and maintaining healthful behaviors. In its “Understanding the Connections: Food Insecurity and Obesity,” Food Research & Action Center discusses six:
· Limited Resources and Lack of Access to Healthy, Affordable Foods
· Cycles of Food Deprivation and Overeating
· High Levels of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
· Fewer Opportunities for Physical Activity
· Greater Exposure to Marketing of Obesity-Promoting Products
· Limited Access to Health Care
International Diabetes Foundation estimates up to 70% of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through adoption of a healthy lifestyle. Again, these challenges make that super difficult.
What can we do? We can advocate for systemic changes like those Dr. Mark Hyman proposes. We can also do something today—World Diabetes Day 2017.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a study finding $1 could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips but just 250 calories of vegetables and 170 calories of fresh fruit. Through its Fresh Food “Farmacy" program, Geisinger Health treats diabetes by giving away free, healthy food. And so can we. This World Diabetes Day, those who stock projects can help food insecure folks overcome challenges exacerbating disease by being intentional about what we stock, specifically avoiding highly-processed foods full of sugar. We can do that every day.