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Inverse association between diabetes and altitude: a cross-sectional study in the adult population of the United States.

  • Author(s): Woolcott, Orison O
  • Castillo, Oscar A
  • Gutierrez, Cesar
  • Elashoff, Robert M
  • Stefanovski, Darko
  • Bergman, Richard N
  • et al.

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To determine whether geographical elevation is inversely associated with diabetes, while adjusting for multiple risk factors.


This is a cross-sectional analysis of publicly available online data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2009. Final dataset included 285,196 US adult subjects. Odds ratios were obtained from multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression analysis.


Among US adults (≥20 years old), the odds ratio for diabetes was 1.00 between 0 and 499 m of altitude (reference), 0.95 (95% confidence interval, 0.90-1.01) between 500 and 1,499 m, and 0.88 (0.81-0.96) between 1,500 and 3,500 m, adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, ethnicity, self-reported fruit and vegetable consumption, self-reported physical activity, current smoking status, level of education, income, health status, employment status, and county-level information on migration rate, urbanization, and latitude. The inverse association between altitude and diabetes in the US was found among men [0.84 (0.76-0.94)], but not women [1.09 (0.97-1.22)].


Among US adults, living at high altitude (1,500-3,500 m) is associated with lower odds of having diabetes than living between 0 and 499 m, while adjusting for multiple risk factors. Our findings suggest that geographical elevation may be an important factor linked to diabetes.

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