OBJECTIVE: To learn if Mexican-American children from low income neighborhoods have excess diabetes risk factors. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: The study involved 173 Mexican-American children aged 9 years. This is the age before type 2 diabetes usually develops in youths and where the disparity in body fat between Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white children is evident. The study also targets poor children because diabetes and being overweight are more common in Mexican-American adults from a lower than from a higher socioeconomic status. The diabetes risk factors measured were percent body fat, dietary fat intake, daily fruit and vegetable intake, and physical fitness. Body fat was measured by bioelectric impedance, dietary intake was measured by three 24-h dietary recalls, and physical fitness was measured by a modified Harvard step test. RESULTS: According to self-reported dietary recalls, Mexican-American children ate higher than recommended fat servings and had higher percent energy from fat and saturated fat. On the other hand, their reported daily fruit and vegetable intake was half of that recommended by national dietary guidelines. A large percentage of these children were at unacceptable physical fitness levels. Percent body fat was higher in these Mexican-American children than that reported for non-Hispanic white children. Finally, 60% of the children had a first- or second-degree relative with diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: Because diabetes is highly prevalent in Mexican-American adults, type 2 diabetes in increasing in Mexican-American youths, and diabetes risk factors are more common in Mexican-American children, a prudent measure would be to explore early-age diabetes risk factor prevention programs in this population.

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