The first study to focus on diabetes in South Asian cultures has found that modest lifestyle changes in diet and activity could improve the chance of losing weight and thus lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The clinical trial carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh was unique in that it was carried out in the homes of South Asian families as opposed to hospital clinics.
Those taking part lost weight and reduced their hip and waist measurements and there were indications they were less likely to become diabetic by the end of the study.
Researchers, led by Professor Raj Bhopal, from Edinburgh University’s centre for population health sciences, said ethnic background and culture played an important role in shaping attitudes and behaviours towards diet and exercise.
‘The susceptibility to type 2 diabetes of people of South Asian descent is established, but there is little trial-based evidence for interventions to tackle this problem. We assessed a weight control and physical activity intervention in south Asian individuals in the UK,’ explained Professor Bhopal.
National guidelines show South Asian people place strong emphasis on family life and eating together but men from Pakistani and Indian communities are three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the general population, despite having similar body mass indexes, scientists said.
The three year trial monitored 171 people of Indian and Pakistani background living in Scotland who were already at high risk of diabetes as shown by blood tests done at the start of the trial.
Those taking part were given detailed advice by dieticians and offered culturally appropriate programmes help them manage their weight through diet and exercise. At the same time, control groups were given basic advice which was not culturally specific.
‘These differing approaches show us that a more family centered strategy, with culturally tailored lifestyle advice, can produce significant benefits to people’s health through weight loss,’ said Professor Bhopal.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
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