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Study finds living conditions may influence risk of diabetes


BALTIMORE Living conditions, not genetics, may account for the higher incidence of diabetes among African-Americans compared with whites, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

The study, available online and set to appear in the October edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that African-Americans living in similar environments on similar incomes have similar rates of diabetes.

The researchers compared data from the 2003 National Health Interview Survey with the Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities Southwest Baltimore Study. The Baltimore study took place in a racially integrated urban community without racial differences in social and economic status.

“While we often hear media reports of genes that account for race differences in health outcomes, genes are but one of many factors that lead to the major health conditions that account for most deaths in the United States,” lead study author and Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions director Thomas LaVeist said in a statement.

LaVeist said that previous studies were based on national data of African-Americans and whites living in separate communities with different levels of exposure to health risks, whereas the EHDIC-SWB study takes into account racial differences in socioeconomic and environmental risk exposures to determine whether differences in diabetes prevalence still exist when black and white Americans live under comparable conditions.

“I don’t mean to suggest that genetics play role in race differences in health, but before we can conclude that health disparities are mainly a matter of genetics, we need to first identify a gene, polymorphism or gene mutation that exists in one race group and not others,” LaVeist said.

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