Diabetes in South Asians: Etiology and the Complexities of Care

Anish R. Mitra, Irvin Janjua


Fifteen to twenty percent of South Asians will develop type 2 diabetes mellitus. This extremely high prevalence of diabetes is seen in both South Asians living in developed countries and in South Asians who are living in either urban or rural South Asia. South Asians have a tendency to develop metabolically active abdominal fat, resulting in a high risk of diabetes even at a low body mass index. They are also particularly vulnerable to microvascular and macrovascular diabetic complications, including renal and cardiac disease. The high prevalence of diabetes in South Asians is likely due to a combination of biological and cultural factors. Targeting these factors is an effective way to provide education, prevention, screening, and treatment to South Asians. Culturally-focused community programs and interprofessional care teams are two health care paradigms that have been successful in helping these individuals manage this chronic illness. Continuing culturally-targeted care and education programs is necessary to reduce the prevalence and complications of diabetes in South Asian communities.

KEYWORDS: diabetes mellitus; type 2; patient care team; culture; asia

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Mitra AR, Janjua I. Diabetes in South Asians: Etiology and the Complexities of Care. UBCMJ. 2010 2(1):20-23.