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Of the almost 30 million adults in the United States who have type 2 diabetes, it's no secret that African Americans are more likely to be affected: almost twice as much as Caucasians by middle age.
What's been less clear? The prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes among Hispanics and Asian Americans. New findings covering five years of health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), now show that 22 percent of Hispanics and 19 percent of Asians in the U.S. have diabetes, compared with 20 percent of blacks and 12 percent of whites.
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"These are the first national estimates that include Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian subgroups,” says study coauthor Sharon Saydah, senior scientist in the Division of Diabetes Translation at the CDC.
The study not only suggests that Hispanics have surpassed African Americans as the ethnic group with the highest rates of diabetes, it also offers a more nuanced picture of who specifically is at greatest risk within these communities. It turns out that not all Hispanics are at equal risk for developing type 2 diabetes; nor are all Asians. “There is considerable variation among the subgroups,” Saydah says.
Among Hispanics, those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent face the highest risk, compared with those from Central or South American backgrounds. For example, 25 percent of Mexican American adults have diabetes, more than double the number of all those of South American descent with the disease.
Among Asian Americans, 23 percent of those from India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries have diabetes, while only 14 percent of those of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent do. The study does not explain the reasons for such differences among ethnic groups, although some experts suspect that cultural traditions affecting obesity may play a role.
The hope is that these findings will help health care providers tailor their prevention and treatment strategies to better meet the needs of individual communities within these growing populations. (Collectively, Hispanics and Asians account for 23 percent of the overall population in the U.S.; that number is expected to jump to 38 percent by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.)