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Project SuGAR

About Project SuGAR
Diabetes on the Sea Islands
Citizen Advisory Committee(CAC)
Publications and Presentations
Sea Islands Families Project (SIFP)
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Further Reading and Research Efforts            

Diabetes on the Sea Islands

Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death by disease in the United States. The number of patients with diabetes has been increasing over the past four decades. Most patients (90-95%) have a form of diabetes referred to as Type 2 Diabetes, which results from the body's resistance to the effects of insulin combined with poor insulin secretory responses to sugar. Most of the remaining patients (~5%) have Type 1 Diabetes, caused by the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The prevalence of diabetes in the United states varies between 6-10% and about 30-40% of these patients are not aware they have the disease. 

 People at Risk for
Type 2 Diabetes
  • African American male or female
  • Over 45 years of age
  • Over your ideal body weight
  • Strong family history of Diabetes (parents, siblings)
  • Diabetes during pregnancy or had a baby over 9.9 pounds
  • No regular exercise

In adults, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure resulting in hemodialysis, and lower extremity amputation. Diabetes also contributes heavily to heart attack and stroke. In South Carolina, more than 6% of the population has Diabetes and over 3,000 deaths directly caused by diabetes occur yearly. Because of high incidence of vascular complications, South Carolina and the Southern tier of states is referred to as the "stroke belt."

African Americans have a higher risk developing diabetes, and SUGAR diabetes affects roughly 20% of African Americans living on the Sea Islands.

  • One out of every four African Americans aged 65-74 has SUGAR Diabetes (Type 2 Diabetes).
  • One in four African American women aged 55 and over has SUGAR diabetes (Type 2 Diabetes).

The direct costs for the treatment of diabetes and its complications is approximately $100 billion per year in the United States. Despite the burden of suffering and health care costs, the U.S. government spends relatively little for diabetes research compared to other diseases. At this point in time we do not know the basic molecular defects that cause diabetes, or the genes that cause diabetes to be inherited within families. The genetic information is important since this would allow effective medications to be developed that would treat the root cause of the disease, and lead to effective ways to prevent diabetes and its complications.

William M. Keck Foundation

Project SuGAR's start-up funding was granted by the William M. Keck Foundation, which has remained a valued supporter in subsequent years.  Founded by Superior Oil founder William Myron Keck in the 1950s, the Foundation is one of the country's largest philanthropic organizations and has funded worthy endeavors in medical research, engineering, and science with more than $875 million in grants to date. The Keck Foundation supports interdisciplinary research designed to benefit society by addressing broad concerns and proposing practical solutions. This is exemplified by Dr. Thomas Everhart, the Foundation's Senior Scientific Advisor, in his statement advocating new approaches to old questions:

"The W.M. Keck Foundation has been receptive to pace-setting proposals, including those requiring a multi-disciplinary approach...Such multi-disciplinary research carried out by committed, knowledgeable, innovative teams of faculty and students promise new fundamental insights, education, and applications that will have long-term benefits for both science and society."  ---  New Approaches ( 

Project SuGAR's initial successes have lead to additional funding from the Jonathan Green Diabetes Research Fund, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Institutes of Health