Acres of pristine land tucked away up mauka on O'ahu's west side, this is Ma'o Farms.

Students who work the land here are offered scholarships to go to college and most grew up on this side of the island. They also participated in the diabetes study led by UH. 

Alika Maunakea is spearheading UH's research. According to Maunakea, studies suggest residents in West O'ahu are more at risk of developing diabetes. 

"Poverty is one of the major factors. Education and low education attainment is one of the factors. Other things just like access to care, access to resources, healthier alternatives," Maunakea said. 

Researchers launched the study in late 2017. Collecting data from dozens of students at the farm and their families. Everything from blood samples to  
body mass index.  

21-year-old Kiana Tector was eager to join the study. She says fellow interns who thought they were young and healthy were surprised what kind of shape they were really in. 

"When they see those numbers they're like what I'm pre-diabetic what I'm diabetic? I need to change something," Tector said.

Many students started focusing on what was around them, loads and loads of fresh produce. 

Interns started eating a more well balanced diet and taking what they learned home to their families. 

"I actually made roasted roots for my mom and she absolutely hated beets because she's only experienced like canned beets growing up," Kiana Tector said. "She liked the beets that I made and said I cannot believe these are beets."

A year later, results have shown a 60-percent improvement in diabetes risk.

Maunakea believes the improvement isn't only due to a change in diet but also the holistic lifestyle the farm immerses students in.

"Well my great-grandmother told me, malama aina, you take care of the land so the land can take care of you, and she's right," Maunakea said. "Health and wellness is very much intimately connected to the environment around us."

Another year remains until the study is over. Researchers are hopeful more positive results will pop up.