Even with a lower body weight, Asian Americans faced a higher risk of diabetes than Caucasians, which were caused by both genetic and environmental influences, said the Asian American Diabetes Initiative in Boston.
Revealed by a study from American Diabetes Association, Asian Americans remained 30 to 50 percent more likely to have diabetes than their white counterparts, based on the U.S. National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2008.
“For the same weight, Asian Americans tend to have more insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the way that people develop type 2 diabetes,” said Greeshma K Shetty, associate director of the Asian Clinic in AADI.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. With type 2 diabetes, either the body cannot produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. However, insulin is necessary for human body to regulate the blood sugar level.
The higher risk of diabetes in the Asian American community also came from the diet habit. Asian tend to eat more rice, especially white rice, than the rest of the population. “There is a difference between you eat white rice from brown rice, or white rice from whole-grain, whole-wheat bread,” said Shetty, “The more fiber it contains, and that makes it less likely to make your blood sugar level high.” Comparing to the rest, white rice containing less fiber raised the risk of diabetes.
“We try to make sure they decrease fat or change from white rice to brown rice. Simple changes like that to make a big different,” said Shetty. Besides diet, she also emphasized the importance of regular exercise and losing weight, even before the start of medication.
Among all the Asian American subgroups, shown by a lot of researches, Asian Indians had the highest odds of prevalent type 2 diabetes. A study led by the New York University showed that, in the New York City, using the Asian BMI standards, 74 percent of Asian Indians were overweight or obese. Meanwhile, in the general Asian groups which consists of Chinese, Koreans, and Asian Indians, 41 percent were overweight and 13 percent obese.
In 2000, Joslin Research Director George L. King and his colleagues in Joslin Diabetes Center established the AADI. 14 years later, beyond the patient clinic, they have also been doing research and education for patients in other clinical care givers. They gave community outreach at local culture events or other language tools.
“So our effort are that we are beyond just physical clinic, we actually try to make connection with our community,” said Shetty.