Diabetes and Hispanic Youth

Quinceañeras del bicentenario

The National Diabetes Month is almost not long enough to look at the various facets of this all-too-prevalent disease. The family-oriented, Spanish-language educational TV channel Discovery Familia is making use of the month to shed light on diabetes. Staff writers for Hispanically Speaking News say of the station:

All month, as part of its ongoing commitment to provide useful information and programs that reflect the needs, interests and concerns of Hispanic moms, Discovery Familia will air public service announcements to educate viewers about the symptoms of diabetes, risk factors for developing the disease, and the best ways to prevent and control it.

In aid of that goal, they also offer helpful Web resources. Diabetes wreaks havoc in the Latino community. Among other frightening statistics, Type 2 diabetes is the fourth largest cause of death for Hispanic women. November 24 will be the premiere of an original documentary, titled “Crecer en forma con Jeannette Torres,” which features early childhood expert, Jeannette Torres.

The story’s protagonist is Milagro, a girl who wants to slim down for her quinceañero, or 15th birthday, which is a major milestone for young Hispanic women. But, more urgently, her obesity goes along with a pre-diabetic condition that needs to be curbed. Here is the description:

Jeannette joins forces with a team of experts comprised of nutritionists, personal trainers and a pediatrician to help Milagro overcome her battle with obesity and to educate her and her family on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Milagro’s dream is to celebrate her fifteenth birthday in a dress purchased from a regular department store instead of a big and tall shop. To achieve this goal, Torres and her team design a rigorous exercise routine and diet plan for the girl and her family and help them implement dramatic changes in their daily habits.

Torres stresses that the support of the entire family is essential to cope with the difficulties of making positive changes, especially when the mother is working and there is too much temptation to rely on fast foods, which are likely to contribute to childhood obesity.

Around the world, plenty of statistics show how many children have become overweight and obese, but there seems to be a distinct lack of reports on successful treatment programs, particularly when subjects are from urban populations and ethnic minorities.

Yale University developed the Bright Bodies Weight Management Program to address the needs of those very demographic groups, “obese, inner-city children who were primarily black and Hispanic.” It has been an available option for such children in the New Haven area for well over 10 years, and last year a 10-person team undertook a study to determine its efficacy. Their study is, they feel, unprecedented, in that the subjects are very obese (BMI > 95th percentile) and ethnically diverse.

One of the study’s admitted limitations is that the team started out with more kids than it ended up with, but attrition was not regarded as a major drawback because the dropout rate was about the same in the treated group and the control group. The team ended up with data on 209 young people, ages 8 to 16. What the researchers particularly wanted to find out was the sustainability of the intervention efforts over two years.

The intervention group participated in an intensive, family-based program that encompassed nutrition, exercise, and behavior modification in both areas. The control group just got counseling every six months. They determined that such a lifestyle program can be maintained for a year, after the active intervention phase is over. Here are the parts that apply to diabetes:

At the end of 12 months, virtually all anthropometric and metabolic parameters, including increased insulin sensitivity and improved glucose tolerance, favored the Bright Bodies groups over the clinic control group.

The results of this study reveal that the beneficial effects of the Bright Bodies weight management program on body weight, body composition, plasma lipids and insulin, and insulin sensitivity were sustained in comparison to the clinic control group for 24 months…

In addition to reduction of adiposity, other major clinical benefits of this program were the continuous improvements of HOMA-IR and fasting insulin because severe insulin resistance is so common in prediabetic obese youth.

After 12 months of the Bright Bodies program, the 3 subjects with prediabetes reverted to normal glucose tolerance, whereas 4 subjects in the control groups progressed from normal to impaired glucose tolerance.

The level of success attained by this study encourages researchers to believe that lasting behavioral change is possible, even in “challenging populations.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Discovery Familia Tackles Childhood Obesity In A New Original Production,” Hispanically Speaking News, 11/08/12
Source: “Long-term Results of an Obesity Program in an Ethnically Diverse Pediatric Population,” AAPPublications.org, 02/07/11
Image by Eneas De Troya.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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