South Asians more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, research shows

by Sarita Sheth on July 27, 2012

People from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka need close monitoring

South Asians are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes as they have higher levels of blood sugar than white Europeans independent of risk factors that influence sugar levels.

As a result people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka should be more closely monitored, according to doctors.

The study of 4,688 white Europeans and 1,352 South Asians by the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences found that higher blood sugar levels in South Asians was not due to an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the study South Asians had higher levels of three measures of blood sugar: HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar over three months), fasting plasma glucose, and two hour plasma glucose which are all used for diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Importantly, these higher levels of sugar markers in South Asians were not accounted for by differences in risk factors that influence diabetes, suggesting they were independently higher.

‘We know type 2 diabetes is more common in South Asians compared to Europeans and is diagnosed at an earlier age. We are trying to explain reasons why this occurs beyond the well known risk factors of diet and physical activity,’ said Dr Samiul Mostafa, a clinical research fellow in diabetes and endocrinology based at Leicester Diabetes Centre who led the research.

‘Our study suggests the main measures of glucose used in diagnosis of type 2 diabetes are all higher in South Asians independent of risk factors which cause diabetes such as obesity, blood pressure, smoking and gender,’ he explained.

‘This may explain why diabetes diagnosis is higher in South Asians but more research is required. The findings suggest that South Asians should be monitored more closely for type 2 diabetes,’ he added.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes referred to as childhood onset as it develops when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. As a result the body is unable to produce any insulin and this leads to increased blood glucose levels, which in turn can cause serious damage to all organ systems in the body.

Type 2 diabetes is sometimes referred to as adult onset and is far more common. It occurs when not enough insulin is produced by the body for it to function properly, or when the body’s cells do not react to insulin. This is called insulin resistance.

Many people have type 2 diabetes for many years without realising. Early detection of type 2 diabetes is important as early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of developing complications later.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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