Hispanic Kids Face Diabetes Dangers

They may be especially vulnerable to sugary foods, study finds

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THURSDAY, Dec. 1, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight Hispanic-American children who consume lots of sugary foods and drinks show signs of pancreatic beta cell decline -- a forerunner of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Southern California came to that conclusion after studying 63 overweight Hispanic children, ages 9 to 13, all without diabetes. The team tracked the children's eating habits and also took blood samples before and after giving the youngsters sugar.

Kids who consumed more sugar on an everyday basis had more signs of decreased beta cell function, the study found.

Beta cells in the pancreas create insulin in response to sugar obtained from food. When beta cells start to function less effectively, they produce less insulin, leading ultimately to diabetes.

The USC team also found that about 40 percent of the sugar consumed by the children in this study came from sugary drinks such as soda or sweetened juices.

Previous research by the same team found that Hispanic children are more likely than white youngsters to be insulin-resistant, regardless of their weight. That suggests that genetics may be a factor boosting Hispanic kids' risk, as well.

"Clearly, this is a group that faces a higher risk for metabolic problems," study lead author Jaimie N. Davis, a research associate at the USC Institute for Prevention Research, said in a prepared statement.

"But findings suggest that even modest reductions in sugar intake might preserve beta cell function and prevent metabolic disorders in these children. Public health among Latinos may benefit from interventions to reduce simple-sugar consumption," Davis said.

The findings appear in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More information

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse has more about diabetes in Hispanic-Americans.

SOURCE: University of Southern California, news release, Nov. 21, 2005

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