Study reveals extent of Type 2 diabetes risk for people of South Asian decent

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center say South Asians have a habit of making less nutritious dietary choices leading to the rise of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. The likelihood of Type 2 diabetes occurring in South Asians is four times greater than in other Americans, according to a study by the researchers.

Scientist also said that these results could be applicable to South Asians living in other countries such as the UK, Europe and Singapore. “Our findings may be less applicable to South Asians living in their native countries because of the effect of acculturation on dietary intake in South Asian migrants in the U.S. and because of the economic disparity and its effect on food choices between the two populations,” said Dr. Meena Shah, an assistant professor of internal medicine and the lead author of the study.

An earlier research done in Eurpe in 2012 had similar findings. That study had shown that approximately half of all South Asian, Black African and African Caribbean people in the UK will develop Type 2 diabetes by the age of 80, compared to only one in five people of European descent.

The findings, published in the journalDiabetes Careare the first to reveal the full extent of ethnic differences in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The study was by the Southall and Brent Revisited (SABRE) study, a large-scale population-based investigation which has followed 4,200 middle-aged Londoners of European, South Asian and African Caribbean descent for over 20 years.

The US study in 2018 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that out of the 4 million South Asians, 8.1 percent of men and 6.8 percent of women are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at an earlier age when they have a lower body mass index.

“This is the first study that thoroughly compared both the macronutrient and micronutrient intakes in South Asians with and without Type 2 diabetes using an objective measure – a three-day dietary assessment method that included images of all foods consumed,” said Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, a professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study in diabetes research and clinical practice. The University of Texas Southwestern Center for Human Nutrition team studied 77 South Asian-Americans, 44 with diabetes and 33 without.

According to a university press release, the study found that those with Type 2 diabetes consumed less of the following beneficial nutrients: dietary fiber, linoleic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and ß-carotene.

“These results clearly indicate that diabetic South Asians may need to improve their dietary habits to achieve nutrient intakes recommended by the Institute of Medicine. We recommend that South Asians with Type 2 diabetes include in their diets more yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, fatty fish, and low-fat milk and dairy products. These recommendations may also be helpful to improve their blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels,” Garg added.

This new study was built on the earlier work in diabetes that Garg started when he joined the University of Texas Southwestern in 1985 and the findings back then concluded that monounsaturated fats and dietary fiber are beneficial for controlling high blood glucose and cholesterol levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Along with Garg’s research, the study was partially supported by the Gupta Agarwal Charitable Foundation, the Jiv Daya Foundation and Southwestern Medical Foundation, according to a university press release.

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