You’re probably familiar with the “Bible Belt,” that swath of our nation characterized, for example, by the preponderance of Christian groups, such as Baptists:


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a high resolution map {see above}, “Percentage of Adults with Diagnosed Diabetes,” revealing a “Diabetes Belt.”

An article in Scientific American {March 8, 2011) points out:

More than 18 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with diabetes, which costs an estimated $174 billion annually. Typically, local public health agencies carry out the initiatives to manage and prevent this chronic disease, but because prevalence figures are generally given on national and state levels, local workers cannot gain the traction–and funding–to rein in rates in their areas.

A new study drills down to the county level, revealing wide disparities within states and striking national patterns.

The 15 states that have counties in the diabetes belt are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Belt counties, however, are unevenly distributed among those states on the list, ranging from a few in Ohio and Texas to the majority of Alabama’s counties–and every one in Mississippi.

This pattern made me wonder whether there might be a correlation of incidence of diabetes and fast food restaurants, given the clear link between type 2 diabetes and obesity. Keep in mind, my musings are not a scientific study. I’m simply asking the question. Here’s what I found from Google maps (Fastfoodmaps.com, showing 49,750 restaurants).

What do you think? Coincidence?



  1. #1 Kate from Iowa
    March 9, 2011

    Could be a correlation, but the overall food culture needs to be taken into account as well. Traditional southern regional food is “soul” food heavy, meaning a lot of butter or other fats, a lot of cheese and cream, and a lot of sugar or other sweeteners, from sorghum syrup to many types of fruit-based molasses. It is doubtful that the problem is related solely to fast food restaurants, or there’d be little blips of “diabetes rivets” showing up in pretty much every major population center.

  2. #2 moopheus
    March 9, 2011

    Not surprising if there were some correlation–fast food joints tend to push vast quantities of soda and similar things. But I’d guess you’d need to adjust the map for population density too–how many per capita, what sort of percentage of the local food budget they get, and that sort of thing, to get a more precise answer.

  3. #3 oku
    March 9, 2011

    Is that the total number of fast food restaurants? It should be in units per population, to exclude areas that just have a high population.

  4. #4 Reggie in South Carolina
    March 9, 2011

    Kate from Iowa is right–we need to consider the entire food culture. Around here, even the not-so-fast food is a mix of salt, fat, and sugar. Only the proportions vary. More salt with the fat = entree. More sugar with the fat = dessert or breakfast.

    Beverages might play as large a role as food. Most of my students and co-workers pour Mountain Dew or sweet tea down their throats all day long. Their intake of sugar is astonishing; they must pee pancake syrup.

  5. #5 Jeff
    March 9, 2011

    Agreed! Thanks for your comment.

  6. #6 Lyle
    March 10, 2011

    You can also see the native american interaction, for example if you look in Western NM and Eastern AZ around the Navajo and Hopi res those are high counties as is the Pine Ridge area in South Dakota, The Crow reservation area in MT and the like. Is that a pure linkage with poverty or is there some other factor.

  7. #7 type 2 diabetes diet
    March 10, 2011

    There is no “Diabetes Belt” There are 26 million in the USA with Diabetes and the levels are extremely high on National level! Studies show that this so called “Diabetes Belt” is statistical meaningless. 8% vs 10%

    There is only a 1 to 2 percent increase in the so called Diabetes Belt States. Diabetes is a punishing disease that the doctors allowed to grow out of control and it is affecting the whole country. Diabetes Belt? Media nonsense

  8. #8 Kevin
    March 13, 2011

    It looks like the states in the south have a higher percentage of people with diabetes. I think this is due to the types of food they eat down there. The main food found in the south is typically soul food. Some examples of soul food are fried chicken, fried fish, and fried steak served with gravy. As you can see soul food is usually very high in starch, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories. So does it really surprise you that people eating these types of food are getting diabetes? I think that if they cut down on the amounts of fried food they eat, they can prevent themselves from getting diabetes.

  9. #9 Emily N
    March 14, 2011

    I do not see a direct correlation between fast food restaurants and percent of diabetes in varied states. Fast food restaurants are everywhere, not only in the south. I think diabetes is so wide spread that you cannot use the amounts of fast food restaurants in states to pinpoint the problem area. Because the different colors on the graph are only a couple percentages away, it is a little misleading. There is not much of a difference between 7 and 8 percent obesity, yet the graph makes it seems like areas of orange have way more obesity then areas of yellow. However, I am guessing the southern states have the most obesity because of southern comfort food. It is shocking that most areas on the map were yellow and orange, meaning most of the country has around 7-10 percent diabetes among kids! Lastly, I was wondering why Colorado and New Mexico seem to have to least amount of diabetes among children.

  10. #10 Christallin
    November 26, 2011

    I am a Health, Wellness, and Beauty Advisor at Sam’s Club in Catonsville MD. There is a large percentage of people shopping at Sam’s Club in my department who report they have Type II Diabetes. This may sound funny but,I wonder two things: 1. Is there a correlation between Type II Diabetes and shopping at Sam’s Club? 2. Is Catonsville MD a diabetic hotspot? People come in with Diabetes and they are not all overweight either. They are young and older, some obese or overweight and some of normal body weight. I tried to research the correlation but am not having good results.Could anyone with some knowledge of this e-mail it to me at AllinChrist2@att.net? Thanks for your help.

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