Is our environment contributing to a dramatic rise in diabetes cases?

Broccoli florets, orange slices, spinach leaves, soybeans, chickpeas

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 25.8 million children and adults in the United States — 8.3 percent of the population — have diabetes. Of that number, 18.8 million people are diagnosed and an estimated 7 million others remain undiagnosed.

Unfortunately, 2.5 million Texans have diabetes—which is projected to be near 8 million within the next 30 years.

The rate in South Texas is three times higher than the national average, according to the ADA. The health care cost in South Texas alone is $1.5 billion.

“This trend cannot be clarified entirely by dietary, social and behavioral changes that have occurred during the same time,” said Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “It is known that people who consume low calorie diet and exercise are also diagnosed with diabetes.”

Choudhury, an ADA fellow and expertise in epigenetics, suggests that epigenetic changes may precede the accumulation of genetic events in diabetes evolution.  “Environmental risk factors are thought to be initiators or accelerators in developing diabetes,” she said.

More at Texas A&M Health Science Center.