South Asians in the United States and Diabetes

It is no secret that certain racial and ethnic groups are at a higher risk for diabetes than others. In general, people that are African, Hispanic, or Asian descendants tend to develop diabetes as a consequence of obesity much faster and with a higher probability than Caucasians. The nutritional habits of many Americans include foods that are high in saturated fats and simple carbohydrates. Another factor is a more sedentary lifestyle available thanks to modern technologies and comfort. These two things put these ethnic groups at a higher risk. For this reason, it seems that it makes a greater difference whether these people are living in their native countries or in the United States. The diabetes risk is much higher among Americans for the reasons stated above.

A small-scale study has analyzed people of southern Asia, that is people living in or around the Indian peninsula. It compared the rates of diabetes among these people in comparison with people of the same ethnic group living in the United States. This study evaluated diabetes as well as other metabolic diseases and risk factors for cardiopathies. By analyzing their base blood sugar levels it has been found that South Asians living in the United States, particularly in New York City in the case of this study, are at a higher risk for any one of these disorders. That includes diabetes. An important factor that causes this high correlation is the lifestyle in the United States. Another important factor is the particular culture of a majority of these peoples. However, one must not ignore the genetics involved, which also have an important role to play in this group’s predisposition to diabetes.

In general, people of Asian origins have a higher rate of diabetes than Caucasians. However, this study shows that this rate varies within Asian subgroups and quite a lot higher in South Asians. So Asians in the United States have about a 50% higher diabetes and metabolic disorder rate than Caucasians. Meanwhile, South Asians have more than twice the rate of diabetes than Asians in their populations. While a relatively small sample was used for this study, it does suggest that more research needs to be done in the diabetes rates and risks for South Asian immigrants. This applies in particular to Indian and Pakistani immigrants which conform the highest percentage of South Asians in the United States. The abrupt change of diet and exercise these people experience when leaving their native countries for the United States suggest an important diabetes risk that should be studied further. The importance of their genetic makeup also should not be discounted.

Awareness programs and educational campaigns are planned in the future to bring this problem to the attention of the South Asian community in the Untied States. Special care will be taken to make sure that these are done in languages and circumstances that are comfortable for those involved. After all, the absolute best solution to diabetes is prevention. And the only proven path that reduces diabetes risk is education on the risk factors and on management and prevention practices.

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