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Diabetes and Ethnicity

Diabetes and Ethnicity

  • Compared with western populations, Asians develop diabetes at younger ages, lower degrees of obesity, and at much higher rates given the same amount of weight gain. Asian women are also at greater risk of gestational diabetes, thereby putting their children at risk for diabetes later in life. Diabetes has been studied extensively among the two Asian giants, China and India.1, 2
  • The stellar economic development in countries such as China and India come with a deadly price tag ─ lifestyle-related risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers and other non-communicable diseases.
  • More than 92 million adults in China have diabetes, the largest number in the world. A new study, conducted by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and Chinese Diabetes Society (CDS) found that China had twice as many people with diabetes than previously estimated (See Diabetes China).3
  • 11% of American adults (>20 years of age) have diabetes. About one third of those with diabetes do not know they had it (3% undiagnosed and 8% diagnosed).
  • The adjusted prevalence of diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives in 2005-06 was 9%.4
  • Physician diagnosed diabetes varies by ethnicity and is double among black men (13%) and black women (13%) Hispanic men (12%) and Hispanic women (13%), than white men (6%) and white women (6%).5 These percentages are 30% higher when undiagnosed diabetes is also included.
  • The prevalence of diabetes was more than twice as high for Asian Indian adults (14%) but lower for Chinese (6%) or Japanese (5%) adults.5 
  • The prevalence of diabetes is highest among Asian Indians who have a 3-fold higher rate of diabetes compared to whites, when adjusted for age and body mass index (BMI) (See Diabetes Indians). 


1. Hu FB. Globalization of Diabetes: The role of diet, lifestyle, and genes. Diabetes Care. Jun 2011;34(6):1249-1257.

2. Chan JC, Malik V, Jia W, et al. Diabetes in Asia: epidemiology, risk factors, and pathophysiology. JAMA. May 27 2009;301(20):2129-2140.

3. Yang W, Lu J, Weng J, et al. Prevalence of diabetes among men and women in China. N Engl J Med. Mar 25 2010;362(12):1090-1101.

4. Jernigan VB, Duran B, Ahn D, Winkleby M. Changing patterns in health behaviors and risk factors related to cardiovascular disease among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Am J Public Health. Apr 2010;100(4):677-683.

5. American Heart Association Heart and Stroke Statistical Update2010.

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