Istanbul, Turkey - Type 2 diabetes, usually associated with obesity, can occur in many seemingly thin people from ethnic minorities, doctors told attendees at the Excellence in Diabetes 2013 meeting last week .
Researchers showed that Japanese American women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites, despite having lower body-mass indexes (BMIs). Epidemiologist Dr Gertraud Maskarinec (University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu) presented the findings, which cover a number of studies from her group, in a poster.
She said an in interview: "Diabetes risk is higher in all ethnic groups than in whites, and of course some of this is just due to body weight, but evidence is now building that people of many races may be at increased risk of diabetes and cancer before they are even considered conventionally overweight."
In communities where there are a lot of Asians, "I think it's on everybody's radar already," said Maskarinec. "If an Asian walks in, you don't have to wait until they weigh hundreds of pounds to do a diabetes test." The World Health Organization has worked on the idea to lower the "at-risk" BMI to 23 for certain ethnic groups, she adds, but "not everybody has adopted it."
Meanwhile, Dr Chittaranjan Yajnick (King Edward Memorial Diabetes Unit, Pune, India) also gave a talk on what makes Indians so susceptible to diabetes. "We have seen that Indians are often diagnosed with diabetes 10 years earlier and five- to 10-units BMI thinner than whites," he noted.
Both believe the explanation lies in "hidden" visceral fat found inside the body, between organs, in Asians and probably other ethnic groups too, but not in whites. This is turn affects the levels of adipokines secreted, such as leptin and adiponectin, which can have adverse metabolic effects.