Health In Focus
  • The prevalence of type 2 diabetes among US South Asians is higher due to consumption of nutrient-deficient diet.
  • Diet of South Asians with type 2 diabetes lacked nutrients like dietary fiber, linoleic acid, vitamin A and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and β-carotene.
  • Dietary interventions are needed to achieve healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of diabetes.

South Asians who live in the US are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to poor dietary choices, finds a study conducted at the UT Southwestern Medical Center.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Asian Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an earlier age and a lower body mass index (BMI) than Caucasians.

Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes among South Asians

More than four million South Asians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, live in the United States. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes among the South Asians is four times higher when compared to the Caucasians. The risk increased by 8.1 percent for men and 6.8 percent for women.
Type 2 Diabetes Linked to Nutrient-deficient Diet for South Asians in the US

A research team led by Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, Professor of Internal Medicine, recruited 77 US South Asians for the study. Among the study population, 44 patients had diabetes, and 33 did not have diabetes.

The participant's consumption of both macronutrient and micronutrient were assessed using a three-day dietary recall that included images of all the foods consumed. The research team found that the diet of South Asians with type 2 diabetes was deficient in dietary fiber, linoleic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and β-carotene.

They also found that participants with type 2 diabetes consumed fewer calories and less beneficial nutrients than healthy South Asians.

The findings indicate that South Asians with diabetes need to improve their dietary habits, said Dr. Garg, Chief of Internal Medicine's Division of Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases and a senior member of the Center for Human Nutrition.

"We recommend that South Asians with Type 2 diabetes include in their diets more yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, fatty fish, and low-fat milk and dairy products. These recommendations may also be helpful to improve their blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels," he added.

The findings of the study may also apply to South Asians who live in other developed countries like the United Kingdom, Europe, and Singapore. "Our findings may be less applicable to South Asians living in their native countries because of the effect of acculturation [assimilation] on dietary intake in South Asian migrants in the U.S. and because of the economic disparity and its effect on food choices between the two populations," said Dr. Meena Shah, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine.

The research team hopes to conduct further studies that will compare and contrast the diets of healthy US-based South Asians with those who have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

"This study reveals the effects of diet in these patients and how they can improve their diet to have better health outcomes. But we also need to assess blood nutrient levels, daily energy expenditures, stress levels, and other lifestyle behaviors to do a comprehensive assessment of the factors that contribute to prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes among South Asians," said Dr. Garg, senior author of the study in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

Health Dietary Choices to Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

  1. Whole Grains: Opt for whole grains and whole grain products, instead of highly processed carbohydrates. Swapping white rice with whole-wheat bread and pasta, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millets, and oatmeal can help lower diabetes risk.
  2. Choose Healthy Fats: Good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil can help ward off type 2 diabetes. Avoid consumption of margarine, packaged baked goods, fried foods.
  3. Skip Sweetened Beverages: Drinking sweetened beverages can increase the risk of diabetes by 83 percent. Always opt for water, fresh juices, coffee and tea instead of sugary drinks.
  4. Avoid Red Meat: Red meat like beef, pork, lamb and processed meat like bacon and hot dogs can increase the risk of diabetes. Always opt for lean meat or fish instead of red meat.
References :
  1. Abhimanyu Garg, Beverley Adams-Huet, Chandna Vasandani, Meena Shah. "Comparison of nutrient intakes in South Asians with type 2 diabetes mellitus and controls living in the United States." Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, (2018) DOI: 10.1016/j.diabres.2018.01.016
  2. The Nutrition Source - (
Source: Medindia

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