On March 28, 2011, Joslin’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) in Boston, MA will host its annual A Spoonful of Ginger food tasting/art event at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) to increase awareness about diabetes and its growing incidence among Asian Americans. The Joslin Diabetes Center helps diabetic patients manage their disease and runs an Asian clinic that specifically addresses the Asian American population.

The annual event gets its name from Nina Simonds’ book A Spoonful of Ginger: Irresistible Health-Saving Recipes from Asian Kitchens. Simonds is a proponent of traditional Chinese Medicine and advocates eating foods that not only satiate hunger but also nurtures and stores health.

The AADI event will combine both aspects of Eastern and Western culinary principles and feature Boston’s finest culinary artists, including Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery) , Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger), and Jasper White (Summer Shack). The event will also allow people to browse exquisite art in the new Art of Americas wing at the MFA.

To give you some perspective on how diabetes has affected the Asian American community, the risk of becoming diagnosed with diabetes from 2007-2009 was 18 percent higher among Asian Americans than compared to non-Hispanic white adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For youth age 20 and younger, there were 19,200 new diagnoses of diabetes (type 1 or type 2) annually from 2002-2005, and just last year, estimates of those living with diabetes in this age group rose to 215,000. Karen Lau, a dietitian for AADI, says, “Most people in Asian clinic have type 2 – they do produce insulin but can’t use it as effectively as non-diabetics.” The disease leads to various health complications, like kidney failure, heart disease, or stroke, and is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

But as more young people are diagnosed with diabetes, Lau explains that being overweight does not cause diabetes but it is a risk factor. “I do see patients that can manage [diabetes type 2] through lifestyle – eating, exercising [right].” A large study of people at high risk for diabetes by the Diabetes Prevention Program demonstrated that within a 3-year period, lifestyle changes such as weight loss and physical activity could decrease risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. With Asian/Pacific Islander youth (10-19 years old) at a greater risk for developing diabetes type 2, Lau notes, “Teens are expected to be a little more active [than adults], so exercising 1 hour a day for at least 3 days a week should be sufficient. But what is most important is stay active and eat a healthy balanced diet.” Once again, following a healthy diet that works and weekly physical activity can never be stressed enough.

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