Some important yet overlooked elements associated with diabetes risk may be in your immediate surroundings. This may include everything from which foods are available in your neighborhood to whether your community promotes a healthy lifestyle. One study suggests that the kind of environment you live in may have a significant impact on diabetes risk—for better or worse.

Neighborhood resources may affect type 2 diabetes odds

The study, published by JAMA Internal Medicine, analyzed whether people who live in areas that offer more resources for healthier grocery shopping and more opportunities for physical activity have lower chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

It’s generally recognized that behavioral modifications, such as adhering to a well-balanced diet or exercising frequently, play a key role in reducing diabetes risk. However, little research has been done to determine whether those who live in communities with few opportunities to exercise or shop for healthier foods may be more likely to develop the condition over time.

Higher exposure to healthy food stores meant lower diabetes risk.

Using data that covered a 10-year period from a medical study titled the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, 5,124 subjects were chosen for the examination who did not have type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study. Geographic information was then collected to determine how much access each person had in their neighborhood to healthy food stores and recreational facilities and how safe the area was.

Fewer resources, greater risk

Over the course of the study, the researchers found that 12 percent of the subjects eventually developed type 2 diabetes. Of this 12 percent, most individuals were African American or Hispanic, adhered to less healthy diets, and had lower levels of physical activity as well as fewer years of education.

Meanwhile, lower odds of developing type 2 diabetes were associated with subjects who lived in neighborhoods with greater availability of healthy foods and resources for physical activity.

Lack of healthy grocery stores in some neighborhoods may contribute to higher diabetes risk.

The authors concluded that their results confirmed the importance of establishing more resources in lower-income neighborhoods to help residents avoid the diabetes risk factors they studied.

"Our results suggest that modifying specific features of neighborhood environments, including increasing the availability of healthy foods and PA [physical activity] resources, may help to mitigate the risk for T2DM (type 2 diabetes mellitus) although additional intervention studies with measures of multiple neighborhood features are needed," the authors said in a statement. "Such approaches may be especially important for addressing disparities in T2DM given the concentration of low-income and minority populations in neighborhoods with fewer health-promoting resources."

What do you think about this new information? Do you think this may change the way you look at different neighborhoods in your community?

For more on diabetes risk factors:

Risk Factors for Prediabetes
What Risk Factors Contribute to Diabetic Heart Disease?
Warning: 7 Risk Factors that Come Before Chronic Illness