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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UIC: Cumulative Environmental Exposures Increase Diabetes Risk in Rural Populations

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers are the first to show that cumulative environmental exposures affect rural and urban populations differently when it comes to diabetes risk. Multiple environmental factors were associated with a greater risk for diabetes in rural and sparsely populated counties compared with their urban counterparts.

Their findings, which are based on an evaluation of 3,134 counties nationwide, are published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes affects over 30 million people in the U.S., and 84 million people have prediabetes. While excess food consumption and a lack of exercise are known to influence diabetes risk, those factors alone fail to account for how fast the population is developing diabetes. And while researchers have been interested in how environmental factors affect diabetes risk, a majority of studies have been in urban areas, leaving rural areas neglected in these analyses.

“This is one of the few studies to look at environmental effects on diabetes risk nationally and to determine whether or not there is a difference between urban and rural drivers,” said Dr. Jyotsna Jagai, first author and research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. “The drivers for both environmental quality and diabetes risk may vary in urban and rural areas. Being able to look at the entire country and look at this continuum of urban/rural was an advantage.”

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