Japanese-American women have higher diabetes risk due to visceral fat
Being skinny doesn't grant you a free pass to avoid diabetes.
On the contrary--in recent years, many studies have started to show the hidden dangers of visceral fat in thin people, which resides around the organs, and how it can lead to health complications that are diagnosed far too late.
And at the Excellence in Diabetes 2013 meeting in Istanbul last week, researchers said that Japanese American women have twice the risk of developing diabetes as whites, even though historically they have lower BMIs and body weights than white women.
Diabetes rates rising in non-whites
Epidemiologist Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu, says that too many non-whites are not being tested for diabetes early enough because they appear to be in a healthy weight range.
"If an Asian walks in, you don’t have to wait until they weigh hundreds of pounds to do a diabetes test," Maskarinec told Medscape Medical News.
Visceral organ fat seems to affect levels of adipokines, which can have negative metabolic affects on the body. This explains why an Asian with a lower BMI than a white person has a higher risk for developing diabetes.
Researchers speculate that whites have had longer to adapt to the kinds of food typically eaten in America, which might explain why they have the lowest risk for developing diabetes of all ethnic populations.
Chittaranjan Yajnick, MD, from King Edward Memorial Diabetes Unit, Pune, India, says that the standard diet in India--which is mostly vegetarian--might also explain why the Indian population is more susceptible to diabetes. Deficiencies in B12, a vitamin present mostly in meat and dairy, are leading to babies that are insulin resistant.
Yajnick asserts that conditions are set up before birth to pre-dispose certain populations for health risks, like diabetes.
"All the risk factors for diabetes and adiposity, including blood chemistry, are present at birth," he said at the Excellence in Diabetes meeting. "It's all about nutritional programming rather than the birth weight," he concluded.