But when does this gap begin? Findings from a recent study showed that ethnic differences in diabetes risk can be spotted even before people develop full-blown diabetes. The authors concluded, "Ethnic differences can be detected at both the early and later stages of the diabetes disease process."
Carlos Lorenzo, MD, and his colleagues from the University of Texas Health Science Center wanted to see if ethnic differences in diabetes risk started early in the diabetes disease process.
Dr. Lorenzo and colleagues compared the risks of impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose and diabetes between Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites.
They found that Mexican Americans were 1.48 times more likely to have impaired glucose tolerance and 1.71 times more likely to have impaired fasting glucose, compared to whites.
In addition, Mexican Americans were 2.20 times more likely than whites to develop diabetes, even among participants who started the study with normal 2-hour glucose (a measure of blood sugar levels 2 hours after eating a glucose load).
Obesity also played a role in the relationship between ethnicity and the risk of developing impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes. Among non-obese participants, Mexican Americans had a higher risk of impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes.
Among obese participants, however, these risks were similar between Mexican Americans and whites. Even though whites generally had a lower risk of prediabetes and diabetes, their risk became similar to that of Mexican Americans when they became obese.
This study included 3,015 Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites between 25 and 64 years of age.
Diabetes Care, Aug. 24, 2012