Increased Diabetes Risk in African Americans Explained by Greater Obesity Rates Interview with:

Michael P. Bancks, PhD Northwestern University Chicago, Illinois 

Dr. Bancks

Michael P. Bancks, PhD
Northwestern University
Chicago, Illinois What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We know that the disparity in diabetes between black and white youth and young adults is growing, but the reasons why are unclear. We also know that traditional risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity and low socioeconomic status, are more common among blacks as compared with whites.

Our study describes how the unequal rates of these traditional diabetes risk factors explain or account for the higher rates of diabetes among blacks. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In our study, black women and men developed diabetes to a much greater extent already by middle-age than white women and men. We show that we can explain the disparity in diabetes incidence when we account for differences in well-known health factors and their changes over time, particularly measures of general obesity and excess weight around the waist. There is no easy fix for this public health problem, which is driven by a combination of biological, neighborhood, psychosocial, socioeconomic and behavioral factors. To eliminate the higher rate of diabetes, everybody needs to have access to healthy foods, safe spaces for physical activity and equal economic opportunity to have enough money to afford these things and live in communities that offer this. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: As a result of our study, we know the answer to why rates of diabetes are higher in blacks as compared to whites. Our study provides a starting point to conversations with community members, policymakers and healthcare providers about the types of strategies that are needed to prevent the development of obesity and diabetes. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: I’d like to emphasize that the disparate change over time in these well-known diabetes risk factors between blacks and whites contributed to the greater development of diabetes in blacks compared to whites. I have no financial disclosures and my research is supported by the National Institutes of Health. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Bancks MP, Kershaw K, Carson AP, Gordon-Larsen P, Schreiner PJ, Carnethon MR. Association of modifiable risk factors in young adulthood with racial disparity in incident type 2 diabetes during middle adulthood. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.19546

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on January 2, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD