The study highlights the fact that a person's ethnic background can give an idea about his or her fat and muscle mass, which in turn could determine their diabetes risk.
Obesity, a worldwide health concern, is associated with increased insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
While the prevalence of obesity is increasing in all populations across the globe, but past research has found that body fat distribution varies widely among different ethnic groups.
In the current study, the scientists investigated which ethnic groups were most likely to be at increased risk for diabetes due to higher total body fat and lower muscle mass.
"We know certain ethnic backgrounds show significant differences in amounts of body fat and lean mass. What we didn't know, until now, is if these differences are related to insulin levels and insulin resistance, and therefore lead to an increased risk for diabetes. Our findings indicate they are," said Dr. Scott Lear of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and lead author of the study.
In the study, the researchers measured insulin levels and compared the amount of total body fat to lean mass in 828 men and women of Aboriginal, Chinese, European and South Asian origin to determine how differences in fat mass and lean mass may be related to insulin levels and insulin resistance in each group.
Out of the four ethnic groups studied, South Asians were found to have both higher fat mass, lower muscle mass and greater insulin levels, placing them at increased risk for insulin resistance and diabetes.
"An individual's ethnic background may determine the amount of body fat and lean mass they have, and therefore may also be associated with diabetes risk. In populations at increased risk for diabetes, interventions that reduce fat mass and increase muscle mass, such as caloric restriction and regular exercise should be investigated," said Lear.
The study will be published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM).