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  • The World Health Organization (WHO) last week called for global action to stem the rise in Diabetes. They are concerned because the percentage of the world’s population living with diabetes has doubled since 1980 from 4.7% to 8.5% and because more than 1 in 3 adults over 18 are overweight and more than 1 in 10 are obese. While being overweight is not a direct cause of Diabetes it can be an indicator of future risk because of the correlation between the two – “more than three quarters (75.6%) of Canadians with diabetes are classified as overweight or obese”1.

    Why are the WHO, Canadian public health agencies, and the medical community in general concerned about the rising rate of Diabetes? Can’t you just take insulin and that’s it – no more problem? Well, it’s not that simple. “The complications of Diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. For example, rates of lower limb amputation are 10 to 20 times higher for people with diabetes.”2

    Diabetes is found in 3 main forms. The cause of Type 1 Diabetes is not known and treatment involves daily insulin administration to survive. Type 2, which in general can be easily prevented, is by far the most prevalent form. Historically this type was referred to as “adult-onset Diabetes” but it is increasing dramatically in children and young people. The 3rd form is gestational Diabetes (during pregnancy) and it increases the risk of Type 2 later in life.

    Is Type 2 Diabetes, the largely preventable form, prevalent in the Filipino community? The simple answer is yes. But for the complete answer let’s look at some of the medical literature.

    A phenomenon known as the negative acculturation effect was demonstrated in a multi-ethnic Ontario study where it was found that immigrants living in Canada over 15 years have a higher proportion of type 2 diabetes than new immigrants.3 This suggests that lifestyle and diets adopted by immigrants might have an impact.

    A 2014 study in Hawaii found that “despite their lower BMI (Body Mass Index), Asian Americans have a higher diabetes risk than whites”. Compared to Caucasians the rate of risk was 1.9 times higher for Chinese/Koreans, 2.1 for Japanese and Mixed-Asian, 2.2 times higher for Filipinos, 2.5 for Native Hawaiians), and 2.6 for part-Asian.4

    A study in New South Wales, Australia found that Filipinos living there had the 6th highest incidence of diabetes out of the 20 countries of origin covered in the study.5

    Diabetes prevalence of 31.4% was found in Filipinas aged 40-86 years in Mira Mesa (San Diego County USA) in a study reported in 2007.6

    A study published in 2010 involved a total of 933 people (including 453 Filipinas in the San Diego area and 170 Filipinos in Hawaii) using an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) found an age-adjusted diabetes prevalence of 18.9% of Filipinos compared to 12.3% for Hawaiians; 12.9% for Filipino-Hawaiians: 12.9%, and 10.9% for Japanese.7

    Another study reported in 2010 found that among Asian Americans, Filipinos have the second highest risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) after Asian Indians.8

    Hypertension rates are higher in Filipinos than in other Asian American subgroups as evidenced in studies using data from clinical populations in northern California.9

    Syndrome X, Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin-Resistance Syndrome (IRS) are all terms used to describe the pre-diabetic stage when the body becomes resistant to its own insulin. A 2002 study found that more than 1/5th of Americans were found to have Metabolic Syndrome.10 In 2003 a study of 4,541 Filipino-American adults aged 20 years and over concluded that metabolic syndrome is so prevalent among some Filipino-American adults that health programs geared towards minimizing the death risk factors had to be properly developed, promoted and fully implemented.11   

    So the short and the long answer is YES. Diabetes is prevalent in the Filipino community. If you’d like a list of the references drop me an email.

    Next time I’ll discuss the ways to prevent Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. “Next time I’ll discuss the ways to prevent Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. If you would like a head start on the topic I have just learned of a free on-line seminar from April 18-25. A number of physicians and others in the field make up the speakers’ list. You can register free at www.thediabetessummit.com. Scroll down to click on  the “No thanks, I’ll attend for free” button.”

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