A page from a pamphlet with heading New Study Focuses on Prevention.

While scientists are achieving impor-
tant gains in the improved treatment
of diabetes, preventing the disease is a
top priority in the diabetes research
community. By learning more about
why certain people are at high risk for
developing diabetes, scientists may be
able to develop ways to stop the dis-
ease before it starts, or at least delay
its development.

Researchers do not yet fully under-
stand why American Indians, and espe-
cially the Pima Indians, are more likely
to develop diabetes, but one thing is
clear – those who are overweight are
at high risk. Approximately 80 percent
of people with diabetes are over-

For thousands of years, wheat,
beans and squash have been a staple
food for native North Americans.
Traditional beans, such as the tepary
bean, are an especially rich source
of protein and fiber.

Studies have shown that American
Indians, Africans and Hispanics living
in their native homelands – where the
traditional diet is low in fat and daily
activities involve walking, gardening,
farming, and other forms of physical
labor – have very low rates of
unhealthy weight and diabetes.

When these groups adopt the high fat
diet and inactive lifestyle typical of
Western civilization, weight gain –
and frequently, diabetes and its com-
plications – become significant health
problems. Researchers think that if
these minority populations returned to
their native diet and lifestyle, the risk
of diabetes could be reduced and
people who already have the disease
might be healthier.

To test these and other theories on
prevention, NIH has launched a na-
tionwide, multi-center clinical study,
the Diabetes Prevention Program, to
see if diabetes can be prevented or
delayed in people at high risk for de-
veloping the disease. The NIH is re-
cruiting several hundred Native

Americans at high risk for developing
diabetes to participate in the six-year
study. Volunteers will be selected from
among several American tribes, includ-
ing the Pima Indians. Dr. William
Knowler, chief of the Diabetes and
Epidemiology Section at NIDDK, and
Dr. Venkat Narayan, an NIDDK visit-
ing scientist, will direct the study in
the Pima Indians.

To prepare for this multi-center study,
NIH researchers conducted a pilot
study with 95 Pima Indians who are
diabetes-free and have normal glucose
tolerance tests. Researchers wanted to
determine if study participants would

Poster for the Diabetes
Prevention Study by
Jose Antone

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