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Growing Health Risk in Native American Community

November 15, 2007

Bismarck, ND – Since 1990, the rate of diabetes has increased five percent a year in the U.S. and now more than 20 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. Among Native Americans, diabetes is even more prevalent, and it's the subject of discussion today at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. Dr. Darryl Tonemah, who works with the National Institutes of Health on diabetes prevention among Indian populations, is one of the speakers. He says modern processed foods have had serious consequences.

"Having been given commodities years ago, we've learned to cook from these commodities, and we've learned to cook more unhealthy."

Tonemah says going back to traditional foods, such as lean meats and fresh vegetables, would be a step in the right direction. He says no matter what culture, the steps for prevention of diabetes remain the same.

"Weight loss and exercise can prevent diabetes. All the research shows it's the same across all cultural groups. No matter what your cultural group, if you lost weight and exercised, you prevented diabetes."

He says people who exercise more than three times a week can slim down and reduce their risk, and people who already have diabetes can use diet and exercise to better control their blood sugar levels.

Dick Layman/John Robinson, Public News Service - ND