News article

Weight Associated With Diabetes Risk Differs By Ethnicity

Posted:  Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Studies prove Blacks, Asians and Hispanics are more likely to get type 2 diabetes than the whites but it is also easier for the minorities to cut back the risks by better lifestyle habits. Also the weight of the plays a major role to get diabetes. The chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other weight-related health risks increases with increasing body mass index (BMI).

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of weight in relation to height used to assess health risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines overweight as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 and obesity as a BMI of 30 and above.

The study comes from researchers at the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University Of Glasgow, Scotland, who examined data on nearly half a million middle-aged adults in the UK.

However, those cut-offs are primarily applicable to white people, which has been noted by the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Naveed Sattar told Reuters Health.

“But few people really recognize this,” he said. Institutions like the WHO and CDC have yet to adopt ethnicity-specific BMI cut-offs for overweight and obesity.

He and his team analyzed data on almost 500,000 middle-aged UK adults, 96 percent of whom were white. The remaining four percent included South Asian, black and Chinese adults.

Five percent of the total group, or about 25,000 people, had diabetes, according to findings published in Diabetes Care.

After assessing the association between BMI, body fat percentage, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio and prevalent diabetes, the team found that non-white adults were two to four times more likely to have diabetes.

More interestingly, diabetes prevalence in white people with a high BMI of 30 (the lower threshold for obesity) was equal to incidence among South Asians with a BMI of 22, black people with a BMI of 24, and Chinese people with a BMI of 25. Results were similar when the researchers looked at waist circumference: non-white people were at risk for diabetes at smaller waist sizes than white people. Researchers have suggested that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role in different body fat patterns by ethnicity, but questions remain. The new study and others suggest that the obesity cut-off for Asians in particular might need to be re-evaluated, Sattar said. The report included many people but only addressed one point in time, he noted. These findings need to be verified by another study that follows a group of people over time, he said. Establishing ethnicity-specific cut-offs for obesity is important partly to make doctors aware that diabetes risk can be heightened at much lower BMIs for some ethnicities, which should prompt them to give lifestyle advice and screen for diabetes at lower weights, Sattar said. Family history of diabetes is known to be an important risk factor for all ethnic groups. However, even though over half of South Asian, African and African Caribbean men and one third of women had a family history of diabetes, this did not explain the extra risk over their European counterparts.