Scientists Find New Tool in Fight Against Diabetes

How best to avoid the scourge of type 2 diabetes in the Black community.

A new study out of Johns Hopkins University finds that African-Americans tend to have lower potassium levels than their white counterparts. While this may not seem very exciting, researchers say this potassium deficiency may go a long way toward explaining why Blacks also tend to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes more often than whites. It could also be an amazing step toward understanding how to easily eradicate the scourge of diabetes in the Black community—potassium supplements.

Scientists and other medical professionals have known for years that potassium deficiency is a risk factor for diabetes, but until now they didn’t know there may be a correlation between low potassium in Blacks and their tendency to have type 2 diabetes at higher rates than whites. Nearly 10 percent of Americans now have type 2 diabetes, and Blacks are afflicted with it twice as often as whites.

But while researchers are excited by their findings, they note that the information is in no way a sure sign of a cure.

"This research doesn't mean people should run out and start taking potassium supplements," said Hsin-Chieh Yeh, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Yeh added that there needs to be definitive clinical trials in order to ascertain whether supplements could help prevent diabetes.

The problem is that, besides low potassium, contributing factors to the development of type 2 diabetes are also prevalent in the Black community, including low socioeconomic status, poor diet, obesity and general poor health. With Blacks faced with increased levels of all those problems, attempting to suggest that potassium supplements can be a panacea is dangerous if not outright wrong.

In other words, while supplements aren’t necessarily a bad thing to consider in your fight against the onset of diabetes, it’s probably more wise to exercise and watch what you eat.