Diabetes High Among Some Ethnicities

Diabetes rates appear high among Pacific Islanders and Asian subgroups

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Diabetes affects people of all races and ethnicities. But for reasons that are still not entirely clear, some ethnic groups are more at risk than others.

Rates of diabetes are much higher among Pacific Islanders, South Asians and Filipinos than in the general U.S. population, according to recent research.

"Exercise and eat healthy to lower your risk of diabetes."

Andrew J. Karter, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and colleagues set out to study the rates of diabetes among specific groups of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

They found high rates of both existing and new cases of diabetes among Pacific Islanders, South Asians and Filipinos. In fact, these ethnic groups had the highest rates of diabetes among all racial and ethnic groups, including minority groups traditionally known to have a high risk (e.g. Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans).

While the rate of existing cases of diabetes was 9.9 percent in the general population, the rate of existing diabetes was:

  • 18.3 percent among Pacific Islanders
  • 15.9 percent among South Asians
  • 16.1 percent among Filipinos

The rate of new cases of diabetes was 8.0 cases per 1,000 person-years in the general population. In comparison, the rate of new cases was:

  • 19.9 cases per 1,000 person-years among Pacific Islanders
  • 17.2 cases per 1,000 person-years among South Asians
  • 14.7 cases per 1,000 person-years among Filipinos

"High rates of diabetes among Pacific Islanders, South Asians and Filipinos are obscured by much lower rates among the large population of Chinese and several smaller Asian subgroups," the authors concluded.

In other words, when all Asians are clumped together in the same group, their diabetes rates may seem lower. However, when diabetes rates are examined for specific subgroups, higher rates are revealed.

Of the 2,123,548 participants involved in this study, the researchers knew the race or ethnicity of 1,704,363 participants. The ethnic makeup of this group was:

  • 56.9 percent white
  • 14.9 percent Latino
  • 8.0 percent African American
  • 4.9 percent Filipino
  • 4.0 percent Chinese
  • 2.8 percent multiracial
  • 0.9 percent Japanese
  • 0.6 percent Native American
  • 0.5 percent Pacific Islander
  • 0.4 percent South Asian
  • 0.1 percent each Southeast Asian, Korean and Vietnamese

The study was published October 15 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 16, 2012
Last Updated:
October 17, 2012