Asian Indians are around four times more likely than white Europeans to develop early-onset type 2 diabetes, according to research from the University of Dundee.
The study published in Diabetologia showed that Asian Indians under the age of 40 with a normal BMI had a genetic predisposition to poorer insulin secretion and were therefore at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This is the first time it has been shown that South Asians, and Asian Indians in particular, have a greater genetic burden of poor beta-cell function.
Current research mainly considers diabetes in people of Western European ancestry, even though type 2 diabetes can affect different populations in varying ways. By 2045, it is estimated that 151 million South Asians will have diabetes.
Using data from the Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centres, the largest clinical network of diabetes care in India, the researchers analysed information from over 20,000 Asian Indians with type 2 diabetes in the country.
Additional data from the ICMR-INDIAB Indian national study, which determined the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes in India, was also compared with data from white Europeans using the East Scotland Diabetes Cohort database.
The researchers found that the prevalence of young-onset diabetes with normal BMI was 9.3% amongst white Europeans and 24-39% amongst Asian Indians.
Dr Moneeza Siddiqui, from Dundee’s School of Medicine, said: ‘We tested the hypothesis that lower clinically and genetically determined beta-cell function is associated with early-onset diabetes in Asian Indians.’
She added: ‘We found that this association was robust and independent of other risk factors like insulin sensitivity, being overweight or obese, having a larger waist circumference, having a poor lipid profile, even having a family history of diabetes.’
The researchers say that the additional burden of poor beta-cell function and its role in diabetes onset has important therapeutic implications and should inform therapies and care for patients of South Asian descent.
Beta cells are found in the pancreas and secrete insulin in response to blood glucose levels. In people with type 2 diabetes, beta cells must work harder to control blood sugar levels, which can lead to malfunction.
NHS England announced in March that 18,000 people have avoided developing type 2 diabetes thanks to the NHS prevention programme, according to a Government-funded study.
A version of this story was first published by Pulse’s sister title Nursing in Practice