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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 27) – The indigenous people of the Northern Marianas rank third in the world among adult populations with type 2 diabetes. They also have a higher rate of limb amputation and blindness, compared to the population in the United States.

These findings were included in a federally funded study conducted among 453 public and private high school sophomore students.

Sharon Daves, public health prevention specialist of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control; Richard Brostrom, medical director of the Division of Public Health; and Lynn Tenorio, CNMI-Public Health diabetes program coordinator, who co-authored the study, said minority populations like the Chamorros and Carolinians tend to be more affected with diabetes.

"The burden of diabetes among Pacific islanders is disproportionately high. The indigenous people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Chamorros and Carolinians, rank third in the world among adult populations with type 2 diabetes; only the Pima Indians and the Nauruans carry a higher rate," they said.

"In the CNMI, 14 per 1,000 populations with diabetes have at least one blind eye, whereas the rate on the mainland is 2.2. Of 1,000 persons with diabetes in the commonwealth, 8.5 begin dialysis each year versus 2.1 on the mainland U.S. Among 1,000 persons with diabetes, 12.8 undergo limb amputation each year, a rate 50 percent higher than the U.S. national rate," they added.

They said this situation is affecting the CNMI’s already limited funding for health care services.

The authors of the study said while it is true that genetics play a factor in getting diabetes that cannot be changed, obesity, another major factor in getting the disease, can be prevented.

"Studies have indicated behavioral interventions are more effective at an early age, rather than measures attempting to alter established patterns in adulthood. As the onset of type 2 diabetes has been estimated to occur 4 to 7 years before clinical diagnosis, screening is a vital tool in the identification of modifiable environmental risk factors," the study said.

The study found out that many of the students tested were either obese or overweight.

Their nutritional habits were also far from healthy.

For instance, nearly 50 percent of the sophomores said they drink regular soft drinks five to seven days a week.

Almost all of them also eat fast-food in any given week.

But while many of them regularly eat and drink unhealthy food, they do not have enough physical activities to burn their calories.

The study stated that more awareness about nutrition is needed to save the youth from diabetes.

May 27, 2005

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