Dietary clues about Asian American diabetes risk

The reason why Asian Americans tend to have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than Caucasian Americans may be due to the transition from traditional Asian diets to western diets, according to researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center.

A randomized clinical trial showed that both Asian Americans and Caucasian Americans with risk of type 2 diabetes were able to lower insulin resistance when adopting a traditional Asian diet.

Yet when both groups switched to a more Western diet, the Asian American participants had greater increases in insulin resistance than Caucasian Americans.

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For the first eight weeks of the diet, all of the subjects ate a high-fiber, low-fat East Asian diet, with 70 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein and 15 percent from fat.

During the second eight weeks, 33 of the participants transitioned to a traditional low-fiber Western diet, with 50 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 16 percent from protein, and 34 percent from fat.

"It was almost impossible to prevent people from losing weight on the Asian diet, and that was not because the food wasn't good!" said study author Dr. George King, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Joslin Diabetes Center. "And almost everybody gained weight on the western diet, and we had to work very hard so they didn't gain too much."

The researchers said that the high-fiber, low-fat Asian diet could explain the decrease in insulin resistance, while this type of eating could also explain why participants had lower cholesterol levels during this phase.

"These results were very exciting for Asian Americans," Lau says. "We are at high risk for diabetes, but we can use diet to help prevent it."

Currently, Asian Americans have about a 20-percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than Caucasian Americans, the researchers noted.

Source: Joslin Diabetes Center

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