The interrelationship of food, culture, and diabetes among Mexican American women
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Diabetes and related complications are one of the leading causes of death for Mexican American women. Although dietary behavior is a critical component of diabetes management, research is lacking in relation to the interplay of food habits, culture, and diabetes among this population. The specific aims of this ethnographic study were to: (1) explore the relationships between culture, food habits, and type 2 diabetes as experienced by low income Mexican American women; (2) examine the role of food in the cultural identity of low-income Mexican American women; (3) examine how trying to adhere to the ADA dietary guidelines for people with diabetes impacts the relationship between food and culture of low income Mexican American women with type 2 diabetes. This sample consisted of 16 Mexican American women between the ages of 39 to 60 years. Twelve of the sixteen had experienced diabetes for at least 10 years, and were considered experts in the management of their illness. The remaining four had experienced diabetes for a shorter period of time and were considered novices. Individual interviews were conducted with each informant. All interviews were audiotaped with the exception of one. The interviews, observations, and field notes were analyzed for data. The analysis of data rendered 6 themes: (1) “la dieta,” (2) the location and fluidity of food (3) confidence-defiance self-management connection, (4) negotiating sociocultural and biomedical expectations, (5) eating for diabetes is a family affair, and (6) strategies for self-care. In addition, preliminary comparisons were conducted between experienced and more novice individuals with diabetes.