Alarming Rate of Diabetes Among Hispanics

May 24, 12 Alarming Rate of Diabetes Among Hispanics

Diabetes poses huge health risks for the Hispanic population, and researchers have conducted several studies to discover why Hispanics develop diabetes at a disproportionally higher rate—Hispanics are 66% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes—than Non-Hispanic Whites.1

CDC Diabetes Graph

Several sociological and cultural factors attribute to the current Hispanic diabetes epidemic:

1. Lack of Awareness

As a culture, Hispanics are unaware of the steps to take to avoid unhealthy lifestyles and implement nutritional diets. Raising awareness of diabetes and other disease prevention is necessary to getting Hispanics back on the healthy lifestyle track. Among the biggest barriers to changing the eating habits of Hispanic Americans cited in Nutrition and Well-Being A to Z, are limited education and confusion in communication with nutrition professionals.2

Studies show Hispanic children who are educated on the relationship between food and nutrient intake and diseases have lower sodium intake than those who are unaware of the relationship.3

2. Acculturating to the American Diet

According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Diets, unacculturated Hispanics, despite having lower socioeconomic status, lead healthier lifestyles and are less likely than acculturated Hispanics to develop diabetes or become overweight or obese.4 Hispanics who speak English as their primary language leave their traditional Hispanic diets of grains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables and adopt American diets, consuming more fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.4

Furthermore, studies have shown that Hispanics living in the United States for twenty years are twice as likely to develop diabetes than those who have been in the United States for ten years.5 A study in North Carolina highlights the ten year mark as significant for the Hispanic population. At ten years, Hispanics tend to become acculturated and ditch their traditional diets for ones with larger quantities of fat and sugar.2

Unacculturated, or first generation, Hispanics tend to consume more protein, vitamins A and C, folic acid, and calcium than acculturated Hispanics even though the first generation Hispanics tend to be of lower socioeconomic status.2

3. Socioeconomic Status and the Cycle of Unhealthy Food Consumption

Acculturated Hispanics who come from lower socioeconomic statuses tend to have less freedom at the grocery store. They have acculturated to shopping at grocery stores rather than local markets or bodegas and have opened themselves up to traditional American, not Hispanic, food sources. Their diets tend to have higher amounts of sodium than those in higher socioeconomic classes. With higher sodium comes an increased risk of being overweight, and those who are over weight have higher risks of developing diabetes.2 Despite lower grocery budgets, basic foods (sugar, flour, eggs, pasta and vegetables) are easily accessible to lower-income families, and food preparation education can help lower fat consumption with such foods.2

A recent National Health Statistics report based on a study of Hispanics—specifically Mexican Americans—with diabetes from 1982 to 2006 stated diabetes significantly decreases as income increases.6

4. Lack of Physical Activity

Going hand in hand with diabetes, along with other preventable diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, is leading a sedentary lifestyle. Hispanics in America not only become acculturated in their language and diet, but they also develop the habits of engaging in the physical activity (or lack there of) of Americans.4 A balance of a good diet and exercise is the only way to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Diabetes affects over 220 million people world-wide, and Hispanics living in the United States are at a higher risk of developing this disease.4 Compared to Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics are almost twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the United States.3 Those with diabetes risk amputation, blindness, and even death and are also 2 to 4 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease: the number one cause of death in the United States.3

Pharmaceutical companies must find ways to reach the Hispanic population, raise awareness about diabetes and other prevalent diseases in Hispanic Americans, and get Hispanics engaged in leading healthier lifestyles, thereby preventing the occurrence of diabetes. Additionally, CPG Food and Beverage companies and Fast Food companies can get involved in raising awareness about portion control and incorporating exercise into a healthy lifestyle.

“The alarming growth rate of Diabetes among Hispanics should be a strong enough reason why Pharmaceutical, Food, Beverage and Fast Food companies must educate their Hispanic consumers,” said George L. San Jose, President and Chief Creative Officer of The San Jose Group.

Hispanics are known for their above average wireless population—over 85% of Hispanics belong to social networks.7 However, because efforts on health and medicine are difficult to communicate through social networks, marketing companies will have to creatively explore new ways to dispense health and medical information to the Hispanic public. The diabetes epidemic continually threatens the health of the Hispanic population, and the time to raise greater awareness and put an end to the increasing rate of this disease is now. Prevention is their only cure to fight diabetes.

1. Diabetes Health and Hispanic Heritage Month. (2011, Sept. 20). Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved from
2. Will, Katherine E. W. (2004). Regional Diet, American. In Delores C. S. James (ed) Nutrition and Well-Being A to Z (168-9). New York: Macmillan Reference USA
3. “Obesity and Diabetes are on the Rise.” (2004, Feb.). Today’s Science on File. Retrieved from
4. Mitchell, Braxton D. (2008). Hispanic and Latino Diet. In Jacqueline L. Longe (ed), Gale Encyclopedia of Diets (529-31). Detroit: Gale.
5. Currie, Donya. (2012, Jan.). “Immigrants health may deteriorate the longer they live in the United States.” The Nation’s Health.

6. Fryar, Cheryl D. (2012, Mar. 28). Trends in Nutrient Intakes and Chronic Health Conditions Among Mexican-American Adults, a 25 Year Profile: United States, 1982-2006. National Health Statistics Reports. Retrieved from
7. Zpryme Research and Consulting. (2012). 2012 Hispanic Mobile Consumer Trends. Retrieved from


  1. This is a really interesting post. I agree that one of the biggest issues is the overall lack of awareness. It is surprising that with the number of cases of diabetes on the rise, there are still so many people who don’t realize the risks they put themselves in. I have been curious if there is a genetic disposition in the Hispanic community which would account for the higher risk. I know that the genetics of diabetes has been a primary focus of a lot of recent research studies.

  2. Steve raises a really good point with his comment on genetic disposition, and it is an element that researchers are currently spending some time investigating. This development has been quite interesting to say the least, as it shows how truly important genetics really are. In fact, they are utilizing fruit flies (the flies actually serve as a really good model for larger systems) in a new diabetes clinical study which has been has been opening our eyes to new possibilities for not only this disease but a whole range of metabolic syndromes.

  3. Thank you for sharing this information. Diet certainly comes into play on this issue, and now childhood obesity has become a serious issue. However, I believe that there are a number of underlying reasons for this that go further than cultural differences. A few months ago, I read an interesting article which could help to further explain the alarming rise in obesity and diabetes rates. Now, there have been a number of studies on sleep conducted in recent years. Researchers are finding that we are getting much less sleep now than we used to, and the quality of our sleep has gone down to. Well a separate study conducted not long ago found that disrupted sleep patterns can slow down a person’s metabolism and lead to other complications. This could be an issue that is facing kids who aren’t getting the sleep they need.

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