An astonishing number of people have developed diabetes over the last 20 years. By the age of 70, almost 1 in 3 Indian Asians and African Caribbeans and 1 in 6 Europeans will have diabetes. There is a steady rise in the numbers of people with diabetes even into older age. This is hugely important. We know that diabetes affects every system in the body and that it can shorten people’s lives, particularly because it can cause heart disease and stroke. Not only does diabetes shorten peoples’ lives, it can harm the quality of their lives too.
Our findings leads us to ask why Indian Asians and African Caribbeans have more diabetes than Europeans?
Type 2 diabetes is usually thought to be a disorder caused by overweight, particularly when fat accumulates around the waist. When we set out on the 20 year follow-up study we had proposed that it would be the patterns of where fat is deposited that would explain the ethnic differences in the amount of diabetes. Was this true? Yes and no!
As we expected, extra fat around the waist measured 20 years ago (both inside the abdomen and under the skin) is an important predictor of later development of diabetes in everyone and it mostly explains why Indian Asian and African Caribbean women are more at risk than European women. However, extra fat and extra resistance to the effects of insulin in middle age are only part of the reason why Indian Asian and African Caribbean men are more at risk and none of the risk factors that we measured 20 years ago was able to explain all of the extra risk of diabetes in these ethnic groups.
We hope that the next SABRE follow-up(2014-17) will give us some more answers to this question
For more information about diabetes, visit Diabetes UK