SAN DIEGO (April 29, 2014) As the number of people with type 2 diabetes continues to rise and its toll increases, scientists are scrambling to unravel the complex genetic and lifestyle factors behind the disease. A new study finds that African American children with a genetic predisposition to diabetes may be able to reduce their risk by getting the USDA-recommended dose of calcium.
"Even though life expectancy for people with diabetes has gone up, the disease has a significant impact on quality of life, so finding ways to prevent people from developing diabetes is critical," said Laura Tosi, M.D., director of the bone health program at Children's National Medical Center and one of the study's lead investigators. "We were excited to find that higher calcium intake appears to mitigate the impact of some of the risk genes for type 2 diabetes, and we're eager to see if these results hold true in other populations."
An estimated 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, or about 1 in 12 people. African Americans are at especially high risk, and the trajectory for the disease is often set in childhood.
The researchers analyzed DNA samples, detailed nutrition information, body mass index and other health indicators in 142 African American children age 5-9. None of the study participants were diabetic, although 40 percent were overweight and 20 percent were obese.
Among children who tested positive for gene variants known to be associated with type 2 diabetes, those who consumed higher amounts of calcium had a significantly lower body mass index and percent body fat than those with lower calcium intake. Body mass index and percent body fat are strong indicators of a child's risk for developing diabetes later in life.
The USDA recommends children age 4-8 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, the equivalent of about 3.5 8-ounce glasses of milk or 4.5 ounces of cheese. Children age 9-13 years should get a
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American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology