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Stress May Raise Diabetes Risk for Obese Black Women

Surge in anxiety-linked hormone worsens blood sugar level, researchers suggest

THURSDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Stress may play a key role in the development of type 2 diabetes in obese black women, U.S. researchers say.

"Much attention has been given to the role of obesity in the development of type 2 diabetes, but stress may be as important in this at-risk population," study co-author Anastasia Georgiades, of Duke University in Durham, N.C., said in a news release.

The study included 62 healthy, non-diabetic black women who were asked to recall stressful life events. As they did, the researchers measured the women's levels of blood sugar and epinephrine, the "fight or flight" hormone that's released in reaction to stress.

Women with high epinephrine levels (25 picograms or more per milliliter of blood) while recalling stressful events and with more belly fat (33 percent or more of total body fat) had significantly higher fasting glucose scores (about 100 milligrams per deciliter) than women with lower epinephrine levels and less belly fat (85 mg/dl). A fasting blood glucose level of 100 mg/dl is considered within the low range of pre-diabetes, and a level of 125 mg/dl is the benchmark for type 2 diabetes.

Women with high epinephrine levels and more belly fat also had bigger increases in blood sugar levels during the stress test.

The findings were to be presented this week at the annual scientific meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

"While we don't fully understand the nature of the association, women with abdominal obesity may be more vulnerable to the impact of stress -- causing their body to increase blood sugar production and elevating their risk for diabetes," Georgiades said.

Further research is needed to determine exactly how epinephrine production affects blood sugar levels in black women. Nearly one in four black women in the United States has type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about type 2 diabetes.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Psychosomatic Society, news release, March 4, 2009

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