Rise of diabetes on college campuses results from increased freedom and lack of healthy food options in dining halls

By Megan Lutrey and Scott Gelman, Row 5
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Lack of access to adequate education and healthy foods has resulted in a significant increase in the number of college students diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Dean Schillinger, a physician at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, told University of Maryland students, faculty and staff Diabetes is a "21st century epidemic" Wednesday afternoon, a recent Diamondback article noted.

"Diabetes is what tobacco was to the 20th century," Schillinger said in the story. "We are reframing the diabetes epidemic as a social problem for which young people are major players."

Diabetes epidemic is becoming increasingly common in racial and minority populations nationally

Although nationally the number of individuals being diagnosed with diabetes is significantly increasing, the rise is most evident in racial and minority populations, according to a recent Diabetes Journal report.

18.7 percent of African Americans older than 20 either have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. Similarly, 11.8 percent of Hispanic Americans within the same demographic have been diagnosed with diabetes. The same goes for 8.4 percent of Asian Americans and 20.6 percent of Native Americans also older than 20.
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While the figures are notable for individuals over 20, the rise of diabetes in minority populations extends to collegiate student populations. Minority students who come from low income families have a 30 to 40 percent chance of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Schillinger pointed out.

50 percent of Latinos born after 2000 could be diagnosed and over 50 percent of African Americans born after 2000 are expected to have the disease, Schillinger told the Diamondback.

About 30 years ago, only three percent of adults had diabetes, Schillinger said in his presentation.

Rise of diabetes on college campuses results from lack of healthy food options in campus dining halls

The rise of diabetes on college campuses is directly related to a lack of available healthy food options in campus dining halls, according to the College Diabetes Network.

Students have a tendency to gravitate toward carb-heavy foods such as pasta and desserts, which are more common in dining halls than healthier food options.

Students' food choices are not monitored by their parents while they are in college, and the increased freedom results in choices that can increase the chance of the student being diagnosed with diabetes in the future, the Network notes.
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Senior Melissa Greberman was surprised to find out diabetes is not necessarily directly related to genetics.

"I definitely thought diabetes was more related to genetics because that's what you hear," Greberman said.

Schillinger said he wants to end the spread of diabetes, which has become known as "grandma's disease," on college campuses nationally.

"We want to end Type 2 diabetes in young people," Schillinger said. "There's no reason a 15-year old child should have grandma's disease."

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