Can cultural adaptation increase diabetes risk for Hispanic kids?

Mexican-American children who show evidence of greater adaptation into American culture face significantly higher odds of being at high risk for Type 2 diabetes than Mexican-American children who do not similarly adapt.

Those are the findings of a study by UNT Health Science Center researchers involving 144 North Texas children aged 10 to 14. It demonstrates the need for further research, said Kimberly Fulda, DrPH, Principal Investigator on the study.

“Child obesity and Type 2 diabetes is a serious and growing health epidemic, especially among the Hispanic population,” Dr. Fulda said. “The results of this study show how important it is for us to explore the factors that are causing this disparity and find ways to promote good health among children.” The  UNTHSC research team measured the children’s degree of language and social acculturation by considering variables such as whether they spoke English, watched English TV shows and movies, befriended non-Hispanic whites, and preferred reading, writing and thinking in English.

To determine the children’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, researchers measured their glucose, blood pressure, body size and proportions, and checked for evidence of acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition that generally occurs in people who are at risk for obesity-related diabetes.

The results showed that as children adapted to a more “Anglo” culture, their odds of being at risk for Type 2 diabetes increased by approximately 43 percent between each acculturation level, said Dr. Fulda, Associate Professor of Family Medicine.

Reasons for the disparity are not yet known, Dr. Fulda said. However, societal and familial factors related to living in the United States that should be explored include fast-food consumption, sedentary behavior, fruit and vegetable consumption, socioeconomic status, parental education and parental acculturation.

A national study projects a 49 percent increase in adolescents with Type 2 diabetes by 2050, and 50 percent of those cases are expected to be Hispanic.

Dr. Fulda was joined in the project by Dr. Susan F. Franks, Randi P. Proffitt Leyva, Jose D. Retana, Dr. Shane Fernando and Dr. Nusrath Habiba. The study, conducted by the Texas Prevention Institute, NorTex and the UNTHSC Departments of Family Medicine and Pediatrics, was funded by a UNTHSC intramural grant.

Recent News

Stephanie Ibekwe
  • Our People
|Dec 5, 2022

A voice for women in medicine

When Dr. Stephanie Ibekwe’s mother, Sarah, came home from her nursing job, she would tell her daughter stories about her patients and the conversations she had with them. “Nursing is pretty stressful, but my mom had an amazing way of handling things,” she said. “My mom really loved to bui...
Noah Peeri Headshot
  • Our People
|Dec 5, 2022

SPH alum Dr. Noah Peeri produces JAMA Oncology publication just months after graduation

Noah Peeri, Ph.D., MPH, a recent graduate of The University of North Texas Health Science Center’s School of Public Health, has achieved a major milestone by publishing an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology just months after completing his graduate degree.   H...
Techstars Demo Day.
  • On Campus
|Dec 1, 2022

Techstars Demo Day brings innovation to the historic stockyards

For the last 13 weeks, the founders of 10 of the world’s most innovative startups have been in Fort Worth perfecting their new physical health technology. They are part of the world’s first physical health accelerator, and now they are ready to show the fruits of their labor. Techstars Demo D...
Dr. Sid O'bryant Award
  • Our People
|Dec 1, 2022

HSC named the winner of the D Magazines 2022 Achievement in Medical Research Award

The extensive research done by Dr. Sid O’Bryant and his team at the Institute of Translational Research has earned the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth the 2022 Medical Research Award by D Magazine. Dr. O’Bryant, the executive director of the ITR and a professor at t...