Montana health officials highlight prevalence of diabetes among Native American groups

After a recent report indicated that more Native Americans in Montana have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes than ever before, members of the tribal communities are attempting to spread awareness about the disease, according to a recent article published by KXLH 9 News.

The news organization cited a release from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, which indicated that more than 18 percent of adults from that ethnic group had been diagnosed with either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. This prevalence is more than two times higher than that of the general public, since Native Americans comprise less than 7 percent of the state's inhabitants, but account for 25 percent of the diabetic population, the news provider reported.

One Rocky Boy Indian Reservation resident, named Julie, told the news station that her 9-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She added that one reason why there is a high prevalence of diabetes among Native Americans is that there is a lack of awareness of the chronic disease.

"On occasion, you see an elder [who] wants to give her candy because they don't think that a child her age could have diabetes, but being in our culture, you don't turn it away," the woman admitted, quoted by KXLH 9 News.

Dietitian Brian Elliot told the news source that another contributing factor may be that the eating habits of this population have changed in recent years. Whereas the Native American diet previously consisted of mostly fresh fruit, vegetables and meats, these individuals may now opt for inexpensive, high-fat options that are widely available, he explained.

In order to help people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes create a healthy diabetic diet, the National Institutes of Health recommends that these people limit their consumption of sugar, fat and alcohol, while eating small portions of nutritious food frequently throughout the day.